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Too Big to Fail

4.4 out of 5 stars 793 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Based on the bestselling book by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Too Big To Fail offers an intimate look at the epochal financial crisis of 2008 and the powerful men and women who decided the fate of the world’s economy in a matter of a few weeks. Centering on Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the film goes behind closed doors to examine the symbiotic relationship between Wall Street and Washington.

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Anyone with a significant amount of money invested in the U.S. financial markets might want to consider other strategies after seeing Too Big to Fail, a meticulously detailed account of the months in 2008 when not only America's economy but the whole world's was on the brink of an apocalyptic meltdown. Made for HBO, director Curtis Hanson's film boasts one of the more impressive casts in recent memory (William Hurt, James Woods, Paul Giamatti, Billy Crudup, Edward Asner, Topher Grace, Matthew Modine, Bill Pullman, Tony Shalhoub, Cynthia Nixon… the list is long and star studded), with Hurt especially effective as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the central figure here. Having already presided over the collapse and sale of the investment banking giant Bear Stearns, Paulson was faced with a similar crisis when Lehman Brothers, another investment banker, saw its stock price tumble and its clients depart in droves--the result of the lack of government regulation and the purchase of new homes by many people who could not in fact afford them, among other factors. Paulson's attempts to oversee a private sale of the over-leveraged company failed, leading Lehman to bankruptcy; others, like American International Group (AIG), would soon have followed had not the government intervened with an 11th-hour bailout. The movie presents a great deal of information and an enormous amount of data, but Hanson and screenwriter Peter Gould (working from Andrew Ross Sorkin's book), while hardly sympathetic to the financial wheeler-dealers who got us into this mess, do a good job of keeping it all straight; and although we know how it turned out, the story is surprisingly gripping and tense, with brilliant performances by Giamatti (as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke) and Crudup (as banker-economist Timothy Geithner) in particular. With the 2008 presidential election looming, most of us were unaware of how close the global economy came to complete failure, but by the end of Too Big to Fail, we are left with the sobering realization that most of our money exists merely on paper--no bank could possibly cover its investors if they all wanted to liquidate at the same time. So perhaps putting a stash of cash in the mattress or a coffee can buried in the back yard isn't such a bad idea after all. --Sam Graham

Special Features

Timeline of a Crisis: An in-depth look at pivotal events that impacted the economic crisis

Product Details

  • Actors: Paul Giamatti, Ed Asner, James Woods, William Hurt
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: Unknown
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: HBO Studios
  • DVD Release Date: June 12, 2012
  • Run Time: 98 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (793 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004EPYZDA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,861 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Too Big to Fail" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on May 25, 2011
Format: DVD
In the realm of made-for-TV movies, there is no question that HBO has been leading the way with critically acclaimed and Emmy nominated fare within recent years. Why? They simply have made an effort to be a prestige label and to support and produce edgier, more sophisticated entertainment--oftentimes projects that you can't imagine any other network or studio championing. Turning Andrew Ross Sorkin's provocative chronology "Too Big To Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System--and Themselves" into a film version seemed like a somewhat dubious idea. Financial crisis as entertainment isn't the most comfortable notion, and yet the story is rife with drama and intrigue. Curtis Hanson's (L.A. Confidential) riveting docu-drama chronicles the pivotal period in 2008 where the United States, and indeed the world, faced an insurmountable financial collapse. As we still feel the devastating repercussions and are still exposed to the some of the same risk, this makes "Too Big To Fail" a must-see project for serious minded and adult audiences.

Centered around Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (William Hurt, who we will be seeing around Emmy time), the film charts the period when Lehman Brothers was spiraling into bankruptcy and how the government's decision not to bail them out exacerbated a worldwide crisis with AIG. Like a house of cards, the tenuous balance of the economic system was in danger of toppling unless some major moves and compromises could be made. Introducing a huge cast of characters, the narrative puts Paulson at the center of the action as he wrestles to maintain an overall financial stability. As a dramatic recreation and interpretation of events, this plays as a blow-by-blow thriller.
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Format: DVD
This is a must see... along with Inside Job.

The story is incredible... One caution: it's tough to keep all the players straight. I had to watch it a number of times in order to follow the cast of characters. You'll need to have time when you can concentrate to watch it.

It's a tale of tumbling dominos.... you'll be shocked at how the key players were not at all in front of what was happening. The story is incredible, complemented by excellent acting and a great cast.

Inside Job gives a longer term view of some of the same players (please see my review)... and their relationships before, during, and after the crisis. Shocking!

I hope this is helpful.
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Hello. Is it worth the time to view this film? YES. Is this film an unbiased portrayal of what happened to the US financial system in 2008? NO.

Too Big To Fail is an entertaining drama, BUT it is just that, a drama, not a documentary. You cannot take everything you see in this film to the bank. The movies made about the financial crisis fall into one of two categories; reenactment drama / documentary. Be aware which category the movies you choose to watch regarding this event fall into. This reenactment is well acted (a blessing as well as a curse), it paints a picture of who some of the key players were -during the crisis but not necessarily leading up to the crisis- and it describes a few of the elements that triggered the events (though the actual explanation of what created the crisis is lacking). But when unrecorded conversations that took place behind closed doors are scripted by someone who wasn't there, and character attributes are assigned to actors playing key people in positions of great power, truth sometimes becomes a casualty of drama, not to mention any (well intentioned or otherwise) agenda by the book author / film maker that creeps in. Watching this production is an exercise of separating the wheat from the chaff.

If you want to view an actual documentary that depicts the events as they occurred check out "Inside Job". This production interviews the actual people working in the industry at the time (or at least the ones willing to appear on camera, which in and of itself is telling).

To further illustrate the point let's take one player as an example; Treasury Secretary Henry [Hank] Paulson.
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Format: DVD
I have had friends ask me to explain credit default swaps (CDS). In Too Big To Fail (TBTF) it was the first time, including the Congressional Hearings, where I have ever heard CDS's explained in layman terms.

I am the first to admit that I find non-fiction much more palatable when wrapped around a good story. What TBTF does is to almost perfectly cast a star studded ensemble around a really good story.

I loved the characterizations of John Mack by Tony Shalhoub ("Cover your ears. Tell Tim Geithner to bl.w me!"), Lloyd Blankfein by Evan Handler ("You are stepping out of a limo going to the Federal Reserve and not a Higgins Boat storming Omaha Beach" and Jim Wilkinson by Topher Grace ("and we all know how well the Post Office works!"). Honorable mention to James Woods (Dick Fuld) & Billy Crudup (Tim Geithner).

IMHO, the real value of TBTF is in it's illustration of the multiple levels of incompetence:

1.) Despite having more employees than many private sector corporations, neither the Treasury, Federal Reserve or SEC knew that the British Banking Regulators had to approve any merger by Barclay's. BTW, this oversight was further compounded by Treasury steadfastly refusing to backstop Lehman for the 30-days it would take for a Barclay's share holder vote

2.) Dick Fuld walking into a meeting with a Korean bank that had already agreed to take a stake in Lehman sans their "toxic: real estate. Fuld wanted the suitor to take another look at the real estate, which caused a loss of "face" and killed the deal

3.) See #1. Not knowing how long it would take to enact the proposed toxic asset buy back program (AKA "Cash for Trash")

4.
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