"Let's see," says PR person Michele Davis, played by Cynthia Nixon, "we can't put any more restrictions on the way the banks are going to spend the $125 billion we're giving them, because they might not TAKE it?" Yeah, Michele, if you tell them they can't pay big fat bonuses with it and fund golden parachutes, they won't take it.
We all know that the banks were bailed out, and "Too Big To Fail" purports to tell us the real story. It doesn't because in order for it to be a movie, there have to be good guys and bad guys. Since it was all bad guys, it's a little skewered.
The good guy of the piece is that hard-working Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson, beautifully portrayed by William Hurt. In the story, Paulson nearly has a nervous breakdown trying to save the world economy after investment companies start going bankrupt.
It's pointed out that Paulson has no conflict of interest even though he used to run Goldman Sachs because he dumped his stock in the company. That's true. Not mentioned was that for some reason he didn't have to pay any taxes on the sale, something like $50 million.
Then we get to the let's bail out AIG because they're in bed with everybody. Yeah. Their big creditor was Goldman Sachs. Paulson cheated the taxpayers out of $75 billion because, in order for Goldman to get all their money, he didn't negotiate the bailout.
He's the big hero, the one whose wife (Kathy Baker) tells him he's taking on too much. So you can imagine what the rest of this movie was like when we got down to the real bad guys, the banks.
Many people in the film ask, why didn't anyone see this coming? I have some other questions. Why didn't anyone know Bernie Madoff was a crook? Why didn't anyone know banks were lending money to dummy corporations at Enron? Paulson gives us the answer, "They were all making too much money, so nobody asked." The thieves, liars, guys with their heads in the sand, helpers, and pacifiers were played by a wonderful cast: John Hurd, James Wood, Billy Crudupp, Tony Shalhoub, Paul Giamatti, Cynthia Nixon, and Ed Asner. Asner played Warren Buffett, the only one with any money. As Ben Bernanke, Paul Giametti gives another standout performance.
Curtis Hanson did a brilliant job of directing -- one felt the tension and suspense every step of the way.
On a final note, the banks were given money so they could loan it out. Instead, they loaned out less. Their bonuses reached a peak in 2010, the highest amounts ever. Mattresses are looking better and better.
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