Too Big to Fail (film)

Too Big to Fail is a 2011 American biographical drama television film directed by Curtis Hanson and written by Peter Gould, based on Andrew Ross Sorkin's 2009 non-fiction book Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves. The film aired on HBO on May 23, 2011. It received 11 nominations at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards; Paul Giamatti's portrayal of Ben Bernanke earned him the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie at the 18th Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Too Big to Fail
Too Big to Fail film.jpg
Television release poster
GenreBiographical drama
Based onToo Big to Fail
by Andrew Ross Sorkin
Written byPeter Gould
Directed byCurtis Hanson
Music byMarcelo Zarvos
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producers
ProducerEzra Swerdlow
CinematographyKramer Morgenthau
  • Barbara Tulliver
  • Plummy Tucker
Running time98 minutes
Production companies
  • Spring Creek Productions
  • Deuce Three Productions
DistributorHBO Films
Original networkHBO
Original release
  • May 23, 2011 (2011-05-23)

Plot summaryEdit

Too Big to Fail chronicles the 2008 financial meltdown, focusing on the actions of U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve System, to contain the problems during the period of August 2008 to October 13, 2008. The film starts with clips of news reports about the mortgage industry crisis and the forced sale of the troubled Bear Stearns to JPMorgan Chase, with Fed guarantees.

With Bear Stearns out of the picture, short sellers have turned their attention on Lehman Brothers. In need of capital, CEO Dick Fuld reluctantly fires COO Joe Gregory and CFO Erin Callan, naming Bart McDade as the new president and COO. McDade begins to successfully negotiate a deal with Korean investors, hinging on the condition that Lehman's toxic real estate is excluded. The deal falls through, however, when Fuld's pride gets the best of him and he tries to coerce the Koreans into accepting the real estate assets.

Paulson is adamant that the government will not subsidize any more acquisitions, but it becomes clear the most promising buyer for Lehman, Bank of America, is uninterested without Fed involvement. Paulson and President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Timothy Geithner gather the leaders of the biggest banks, including Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, and Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, to convince them to underwrite the deal themselves. During a break in negotiations, another threatened firm, Merrill Lynch, approaches Bank of America to buy them instead, which Paulson tacitly okays. With Bank of America purchasing Merrill Lynch, the only other buyer is British firm Barclays, but their involvement is blocked by British banking regulators. Lehman collapses and is forced into bankruptcy. Meanwhile, insurance firm AIG also begins to fail.

Lehman's collapse affects the entire financial market, and the stock market goes into freefall. Blankfein, Mack, and General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt inform Paulson they are unable to do business, and French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde warns him that he must not allow AIG to fail, as the crisis is affecting Europe as well. Unlike Lehman, the Treasury rescues AIG with an $85 billion loan.

Bernanke argues that the Congress must pass legislation to authorize any continued intervention by the Fed or the Treasury. With the availability of credit drying up, Paulson's plan is to buy the toxic assets from the banks to take the risk off their books and increase their cash reserves. Bernanke and Paulson lobby Congress, with Bernanke emphasizing the potential of fallout worse than the Great Depression if they fail to act. The committee of representatives appear close to agreeing, when U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate John McCain, with great fanfare, announces that he is suspending his campaign and returning to Washington to work on the legislation, polarizing the Republicans and Democrats on the issue. Paulson has to threaten McCain not to interfere and beg the Democrats, led by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, not to back away from the negotiations. After a wave of panic and personal haranguing from President George W. Bush, the legislation passes on a second attempt and the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is created.

Paulson's team realizes that buying toxic assets will take too long, leaving direct capital injections to the banks as their only option to use TARP to get credit flowing again. Along with FDIC Chair Sheila Bair, Paulson informs the banks that they will receive mandatory capital injections. The banks eventually agree, but Paulson's staff laments that the parties who caused the crisis are being allowed to dictate the terms of how they should use the billions with which they are being bailed out. In private conference, Bernanke and Paulson lament that, although the intent of TARP is for the banks to use the loan money to restore credit for ordinary consumers, the legislation stops short of forcing them to do so.

An epilogue notes that the banks did not, in fact, use the loan money as intended, but instead returned it at their earliest opportunity, and the stock market still crashed and was followed by a rash of home foreclosures. Nevertheless, bank mergers continued in the wake of the crisis, and now only ten financial institutions hold 77% of all U.S. banking assets and have been declared too big to fail.


The cast includes the following:[1]


Critical receptionEdit

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 74%, based on 27 reviews, and an average rating of 6/10.[2] On Metacritic, the movie received a weighted average score of 67/100 from 17 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[3]

The A.V. Club gave the film a B rating.[4]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Artios Awards Outstanding Achievement in Casting – Television Movie/Mini Series Alexa L. Fogel and Christine Kromer Nominated [5]
Hollywood Post Alliance Awards Outstanding Color Grading – Television Kevin O'Connor Nominated [6]
Outstanding Sound – Television Michael Kirchberger, Chris Jenkins, and Bob Beemer Nominated
Online Film & Television Association Awards Best Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries William Hurt Nominated [7]
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Paul Giamatti Won
Best Direction of a Motion Picture or Miniseries Curtis Hanson Nominated
Best Writing of a Motion Picture or Miniseries Peter Gould Nominated
Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Miniseries or Movie Curtis Hanson, Paula Weinstein, Jeffrey Levine,
Carol Fenelon, and Ezra Swerdlow
Nominated [8]
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie William Hurt Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Paul Giamatti Nominated
James Woods Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Curtis Hanson Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Peter Gould Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Alexa L. Fogel and Christine Kromer Nominated
Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie Kramer Morgenthau Nominated
Outstanding Main Title Design Michael Riley, Bob Swensen, Adam Bluming, and Cory Shaw Nominated
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or a Movie Barbara Tulliver and Plummy Tucker Nominated
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie Jimmy Sabat, Chris Jenkins, and Bob Beemer Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Nominated [9]
Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television William Hurt Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television James Woods Nominated
Television Critics Association Awards Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials Nominated [10]
Art Directors Guild Awards Excellence in Production Design Award – Television Movie or Mini-Series Bob Shaw, Miguel López-Castillo, Katya Blumenberg,
Larry M. Gruber, Holly Watson, Peter Hackman,
and Carol Silverman
Nominated [11]
Cinema Audio Society Awards Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Television Movies and Mini-Series James Sabat, Chris Jenkins, Bob Beemer, and Chris Fogel Won [12]
Golden Globe Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film Nominated [13]
Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film William Hurt Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Paul Giamatti Nominated
Guild of Music Supervisors Awards Best Music Supervision for Television Long Form and Movie Evyen Klean[a] Won
Producers Guild of America Awards David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television Carol Fenelon, Jeffrey Levine, and Paula Weinstein Nominated [14]
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries Paul Giamatti Won [15]
James Woods Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Long Form – Adapted Peter Gould – Based on the book by Andrew Ross Sorkin Won [16]

Home mediaEdit

The DVD was released on June 12, 2012.[17]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ "Too Big to Fail: Cast & Crew". HBO Movies. HBO. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  2. ^ "Too Big to Fail (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  3. ^ "Too Big To Fail Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. June 25, 2018.
  4. ^ Tobias, Scott (May 23, 2011). "Too Big To Fail". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  5. ^ "2011 Artios Awards". Retrieved September 26, 2011.
  6. ^ "2011 HPA Awards". Hollywood Professional Association. Retrieved September 8, 2022.
  7. ^ "15th Annual TV Awards (2010-11)". Online Film & Television Association. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  8. ^ "Too Big to Fail". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  9. ^ "2011 Satellite Awards". Satellite Awards. International Press Academy. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  10. ^ "The Television Critics Association Announces 2011 TCA Awards Nominees". Television Critics Association. June 13, 2011. Archived from the original on February 13, 2014. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  11. ^ "Nominees/Winners". Art Directors Guild. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
  12. ^ "'Hanna,' 'Hugo' and 'Moneyball' Nominated for Cinema Audio Society Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  13. ^ "Too Big to Fail – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  14. ^ Kilday, Gregg (January 21, 2012). "Producers Guild Awards Name 'The Artist' Motion Picture of Year; 'Boardwalk Empire' Scores TV Drama (Winners List)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  15. ^ "The 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild Awards. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
  16. ^ "Previous Nominees & Winners: 2012 Awards Winners". Writers Guild Awards. Archived from the original on 2015-05-12. Retrieved 2014-05-07.
  17. ^ "Too Big to Fail". Complete Season DVDs. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2012.

External linksEdit