What happened in 2008 with America’s economy could have been the sort of disaster that sent the country (and possibly much of the world) into a depression. America – through deregulation and bad planning – created toxic assets where people were given loans that they had no real hopes of paying them off. Too Big to Fail attempts to turn how Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (William Hurt) dealt with the problem. The cast is studded with people like James Woods, Bill Pullman, Billy Crudup, Topher Grace, Paul Giamatti, and many more. Curtis Hanson directed the film, though he can’t get over the massive amount of exposition. Our review of the Blu-ray of Too Big to Fail follows after the jump.
The film starts after Bear Sterns – the investment company that handled a number of the toxic assets – had its stock collapse and was bailed out by the American Government. The Lehman Brothers, headed up by Richard Fuld (James Woods), is the next company to have its stock free fall, and though it has a number of options, Fuld intentionally or unintentionally sabotages them. Enter Paulson, who’s wary of bailing out another company and setting a precedent for government takeovers. He’s working with Timothy Geithner (Crudup) on the streets and with Jim Wilkinson (Grace), Neel Kashkari (Ayad Akhtar) and Michele Davis (Cynthia Nixon) in the office. Paulson knows that if Lehman tumbles it could lead to a domino effect with a number of the largest lenders, a theory that Ben Bernanke (Giamatti) also agrees with.
At first Paulson tries to get the world’s biggest bankers in a room together to get them to help Lehman Brothers. This room includes Pullman, Evan Handler, Matthew Modine, and Tony Shaloub as the CEO’s of some of the biggest investment banks in the world. Though they come to an agreement, foreign interests stop them from being able to act right away. And then AIG collapses, which Paulson doesn’t want to have to bail out as well.
I’ve just delivered a lot of information about what happened in September of 2008, and that I was able to get so much of it from the movie is impressive (though I was very aware of the situation at the time). Unfortunately, though the film tries to get across all the machinations as swiftly and as simply as possible, it’s a lot of people sitting around and talking. You could call it “Lecture: The Movie” or “Boardroom Meeting: The Movie” and that would be accurate. It’s never more than a couple of moments of character work, and then endless exposition. The smartest thing about the film is that it keeps itself to a 99 minute running time, and peppers the film with some of the greatest character actors in the business. There’s a murderer’s row of talent here. It’s just… all at the service of delivering exposition.
HBO’s Blu-ray also comes with a DVD and Digital copy. The film is presented widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. It looks and sounds perfect for what it is. This is a clean transfer of a recent production, and it’s hard to imagine this isn’t how it’s supposed to look. Supplements are lean. There’s a making of (2 min.) that offers snippets, and “Opening the Vault on the Financial Crisis“(19 min.) which offers comments from people on the bailout and collapse. There’s also a still gallery that walks through the incident’s timeline. And that’s it.