Too Big To Fail, The Movie, Is Terrific

William Hurt as Hank Paulson

, Andrew Ross Sorkin’s account of the darkest days of the financial crisis in 2008, is now an HBO movie. The New York Times was kind enough to ask us along to last night’s world premier and here’s a quickie review:

1. William Hurt as Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is sensational; he gives his best performance in a very long time.  He captures Paulson’s humanity and menace without missing a beat.

2. Paul Giamatti as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is also terrific, playing the understated South Carolinian with awkward seriousness and wonky dry humour.

3. The bankers — Blankfein, DImon, Mack and Fuld — are necessarily reduced to their caricatures.  “Too Big To Fail” has too many characters to develop fully.  Cuts have to be made. There’s only so much time. That’s Hollywood.

4. Ed Asner is horrible as Warren Buffett, hamming it up to the point of embarrassment. It’s the movie’s weakest performance.  Mr. Buffett attended last night’s premier.  He can’t have been pleased.

5. Also in attendance at last night’s opening was Sullivan & Cromwell’s Rog Cohen.  Mr. Cohen served as the lawyer for the entire financial services industry (we overstate this only a bit) during the financial meltdown in the fall of 2008.  His friends were hoping that he would be prominently featured in the movie. He was not.  Like the bankers, he was trimmed.

6. Mr. Sorkin had a cameo in the movie as a White House reporter.  He did fine.

7. The movie is “true” to the book in that it takes a sort of Bob Woodwardian “this is what happened” approach to the events of 2008.  It’s not preachy and it’s not partisan. 

8. Mr. Hurt’s performance is so compelling that one imagines the director decided (after looking at all the footage) that it would work best if the entire saga revolved around him.  The director made the right choice.  Mr. Hurt makes the movie.

It premiers on HBO on May 23rd.

Don’t Miss: Our exclusive interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin about the movie adaptation of his book “Too Big To Fail” >