The Brink (3 stars)

The Brink

Interesting but inadequate fly-on-the-wall documentary following provocative political strategist Steve Bannon

At the end of recent TV triumph Years and Years, Anne Reid's splendid matriarch warns us to, 'Beware those men, the jokers and the tricksters and the clowns. They will laugh us into hell.' Political strategist Steve Bannon likes to think he is someone pulling their strings and writing the joke book. Alison Klayman's immersive, fly-on-the-wall documentary The Brink follows 'the great manipulator' as he leaves the Trump administration and seeks to spread his influence across a global movement dedicated to economic nationalism.

Whilst momentous events happen off-camera, Bannon remains a man in perpetual motion. He stays in five-star hotel suites, travelling on private jets as he attends strategy meetings in London (with Nigel Farage, inevitably) and Venice, a public debate in Toronto and endless morale-boosting stop-overs in key battleground states across America. Fuelled by Red Bull and self-delusion, he gives the impression of being an entirely reasonable individual, dismissing accusations of promoting racism but gleefully conceding that 'hate motivates'.

Klayman seems content to observe rather than challenge, giving Bannon a platform and allowing him to be judged by his words and deeds. It doesn't feel enough. We see a human side of Bannon in his battle with the bulge and irascibility with inadequate cohorts but don't really gain much understanding of what motivates him, who funds him and whether he really matters as much as he seems to think that he does.

The Brink is interesting and depressing at the same time. We get to see Bannon in his natural habitat but come to realise that he has the ability to persuade a lot of people that he and his ilk might turn out to be on 'the right side of history'. Even only as a cautionary tale, it has something to offer.

Selected release from Fri 12 Jul.

The Brink

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 31min
  • Directed by: Alison Klayman

Immersive, fly on the wall documentary following around the political strategist Steve Bannon, staying in five-star hotels and travelling on private jets as he attends strategy meetings. Klayman seems content to observe rather than challenge and we don’t find out whether he really matters as much as he seems to think he…