Know Thy Enemy: Our Review Of ‘The Brink’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - April 12, 2019
Know Thy Enemy: Our Review Of ‘The Brink’

The Brink introduces viewers to its central figure, Stephen K. Bannon in the most ordinary light. The notorious political influencer and former advisor to the nation’s highest office isn’t a larger than life figure, just a man sitting long in a room. We find him chugging down a can of Red Bull; a crumpled bag of chips at his side as he wheels and deals on a Blackberry. And these mundane opening moments set the tone for director Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall documentary style.

The Brink follows Bannon throughout his tumultuous year on the fringes of international politics. The doc picks up shortly after he’s ousted from his role as White House Chief Strategist in 2017. And Klayman follows him until the Republican’s crushing loss in 2018’s crucial mid-term elections. The film chronicles Bannon’s exploits as he travels the world sowing the seeds of political dissent. The Brink doesn’t rely on voiceovers and talking head interviews. Instead, Klayman hangs back off camera and watches Bannon do his unctuous Bannon things and reveal himself for the snake oil salesman he is.

In recent years there have been growing populist movements in Germany, France, Hungary, Poland, Belgium, and Italy. And Bannon sees this troubling scenario as an opportunity. After launching a group to promote “populism” and “economic nationalism” in America, Bannon heads overseas to meet with the far-right’s national leaders, political influencers, and financial heavy-weights. His goal is to create a unified populist agenda. If your politics don’t align with these bozos, it’s frustrating watching them spin their tangled web of lies and rile people up with mistruths.

Bannon carries on like a WWE character each time he stands before an audience. He says whatever riles the crowd up, has canned responses ready for hecklers, and repeats the same winning catchphrases ad nauseam. He’s equal parts Vince McMahon and P.T. Barnum.

The Brink 01

Though subtle, Klayman does call Bannon out on his bullshit. On more than one occasion we see him confronted over his fearmongering tactics. And Bannon wilts and grins like a school-boy about to kick the dirt and mumble aww shucks. It’s odd how a man who gets off on being in the spotlight can’t convincingly defend himself from the same accusations that the media has lobbed his way for years. It forces you to draw the conclusion that Bannon is okay with wearing racist and anti-Semite labels.

In another scene, Bannon adamantly claims that he doesn’t accept foreign money. But in the very next shot, he meets with a Chinese billionaire. It’s not long before the filmmaker has to leave the room. That tells you what you need to know about the man’s principals.

Even though it’s evident that Klayman doesn’t share Bannon’s views, her doc doesn’t come right out and admonish him either. Bannon believes no press is bad press, and the movie gives him one more platform to preach to his choir or convert those on the fence.

Alarm bells should go off any time an elitist like Bannon champions a cause on behalf of “the little guy.” Throughout the film we see him fly on private jets, schmooze with powerful world leaders, and stay at five-star hotels. Moments after leaving a family’s middle-class home one, of Bannon’s cronies blurts out, “You couldn’t pay me a million dollars a year to stay in that house.” Men like Bannon use the people grovelling at their feet as stepping stones in their rise to power.

The Brink pulls back a sheer curtain and further reveals Bannon for who he is. And it’s not a man crusading to make the world a better place. It exposes him as a wannabe general desperately attempting to gain influence. He’s fuelled by ego and not compassion. One needs to only listen to the ways he describes his cause; often with the terms of war. He talks about going to battle, weaponizing talk-radio, and destroying those who oppose him. In these divided times he doesn’t stifle America’s flames of dissent, he pours gasoline on them.

  • Release Date: 4/12/2019
This post was written by
Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based freelance writer and pop culture curator. Victor currently contributes insights, criticisms, and reviews to several online publications where he has extended coverage to the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada. Victor has a soft spot in his heart for Tim Burton movies and his two poorly behaved beagles (but not in that order).
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