Venice Film Review: Steve Bannon in ‘American Dharma’

If you walked into “American Dharma,” Errol Morris’s documentary about Stephen K. Bannon, knowing nothing about Donald Trump’s former adviser (who he is, what he’s done, what he stands for), you’d probably find him to be a fascinating, compelling, and at times even charming figure. If that sounds like a swipe against the movie, it is.

This is one of those drill-bit solo interview films in which Morris, in theory, adopts a stance that’s adversarial and exploratory as he grills world-shaking power players like Robert S. McNamara (“The Fog of War”) or Donald Rumsfeld (“The Unknown Known”). In this case, though, Morris abandons his trademark Interrotron camera, the contraption that locked his previous subjects into a vise-like gaze meant to reveal their every brain flicker of ego and doubt. “American Dharma” was shot in what looks like a military airplane hangar, where the 64-year-old Bannon, wearing a modified Army jacket (remember when rebel kids in the ’70s sported those?), with graying stubble and a head of thick Irish hair that he brushes back with shaggy professorial élan, sits opposite Morris, who is sometimes on camera, and joins in a spirited dialogue with him.