"Hank: Five Years from the Brink": Our Economic Cassandra Finally Gets Heard

"Complexity is not a good thing in finance." This is one of the more ironic lines from the former Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, the interviewed subject of Joe Berlinger's riveting documentary Hank: Five Years from the Brink. Though it presents an overview of Paulson's life and career, Hank's primary focus is a nearly day-by-day account of the collapse of the investment banks in September 2008, when the deeply moral and vaguely leftist Paulson — who never wanted to be Secretary of the Treasury in the first place — had to take some highly controversial steps to prevent a Global Financial Apocalypse. As the reluctant architect of the TARP bailouts, Paulson found the behavior of the banks to be just as morally repugnant as the public did, but didn't see a viable alternative. Hank: Five Years from the Brink is Berlinger in full-on Errol Morris mode, complete with Morris' signature direct-to-the-camera interview style, the net result being a financial version of The Fog of War. Intertitles are provided to smooth out the very complex real-life narrative and provide a running glossary, and while you may not walk away fully grokking the subprime market or securitization, you'll get a sense that Paulson probably was the best person to deal with a very bad situation.

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