It is 2008 and the stock price of Lehman Brothers is falling and CEO Richard Fuld(James Woods) is badly in need of cash and a sugar daddy. However, he rejects Warren Buffett's(Ed Asner) offer of $40 a share as an insult to his pride and his manhood. And then instantly regrets having done so because the stock price keeps falling, and a deal with a Korean consortium falls through. Just to add insult to bankruptcy, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson(William Hurt) says there will be no government bailout this time, so Fuld had better work out something with all the other banks.
"Too Big to Fail" is certainly a mixed bag. It gets off to a bad start, as it seems like we've walked into a movie that has already started.(Instead of the archival news footage during the credits, the movie should have instead gone with a Star Wars like scroll: "The empire's finances were beginning to crumble and Karl Marx was laughing in his grave.") And that's not to mention a pedestrian approach to the material and waiting until most of the way through before a discussion of the key issues. However, once it gets going, the movie takes on the form of a suspenseful political thriller at times. And it works having Paulson being the focal point of the movie as Hurt is very good in the role and it helps to have one center of attention with so many characters in play. On the other hand, Paulson, here does seem a little too good to be true, holding firm with sage advice from Ben Bernanke(Paul Giamatti, who almost steals the movie with only a bowl of oatmeal) and Timothy Geithner(Billy Crudup) and assistance from Paulson's Angels(Cynthia Nixon, Topher Grace, Ayad Akhtar & Joey Plotnick).