As somebody who read the news during the Trump administration, nothing here surprised me, unfortunately. Apart from Morris' occasional polite interjections that Bannon seemed incoherent or self-contradictory, there were few breaks in the progress of Bannon's grandiose self-identifications with film characters played by Gregory Peck and John Wayne. These slow-moving bloviations, made unsuitably elegant by Morris' editing and use of famous film clips, take up much of the film. Morris does say, a few times, that Bannon's use of terms like "populism" and professed sympathy with "working people" make no good sense, considered alongside his endorsements of an unregulated marketplace, the absolute liberty of corporations to profit and pollute, and no clear vision of how breaking the American rule of law at the highest levels (to embolden an autocrat, in this case a delusional, brat-like one) helps "working people." In Bannon, we have an unusually complete personification of a desire to break American democracy, as if one were smashing a clock with a hammer in order to fix it. Bannon fuses a wounded egotism and a mythic nationalism, a reaction fired by a seething assumption that some apocalyptic, world-scale disaster could restore this small, individual blow-hard's lost dignity. The biggest defect of the film is that Morris didn't use his talent to imply or illustrate the perceived losses that motivate Bannon. Bannon obviously functions by mapping a personal or familial trauma onto a knight-vs.-dragon romance featuring "globalism" as the dragon (no explanation of any loss or disappointment of Bannon's is provided, but such a loss is a tacit theme of the whole). Morris could have done much more than assemble a film that remains a dramatic stage (featuring the set of a WWII airplane hangar that goes up in flames) for Bannon's ramblings, but to *analyze* a key psychopathy in current history. Because America, based largely on the luck of our geographical isolation from the full reach of other belligerents, came out of the disaster of World War II with three decades of prosperity, he maniacally dreams of a WWIII rather than having a coherent plan for making anything. None of Bannon's notorious scams come to light in the film; Morris overlooks the bizarre irony that Bannon earned considerable seed money for his current career by dealing (out of Hong Kong) illegal video game accessories and cheats in the 2000s. His vague fantasies of remaking America by burning it down not only appeal to many wounded egos but create a thick smokescreen against realities--like his (and Trump's) scams. The machine that is broken seems to be Bannon, not America, but Morris failed to put together a vivid analysis of why Bannon doesn't run right, but merely puzzled at the spectacle of the bound, grinding gears. The stakes are higher than the film implied. That thing could blow up.
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