In Hank, a Flashback to 2008’s Economic Nightmare


Maybe it’s the influence of his Bloomberg Businessweek collaborators or maybe it’s the subject matter, but Joe Berlinger’s Hank: 5 Years From the Brink is more workaday and less transfixing than projects of his like Brother’s Keeper or Paradise Lost.

Still, as former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s story (and it is his story, told from an uncomfortable chair in a broadcast newsroom) unfolds, so does the realization that President George W. Bush seems to have accidentally tapped the multimillionaire with the very patience and intestinal fortitude — if not the level of expertise — that it would take to handle the batting-cage onslaught of the 2008 financial crises.

The former Goldman Sachs CEO had to play economic whack-a-mole, cajole fellow bankers and Wall Street honchos into making brink-of-disaster, economy-saving deals, and face Congress amid withering criticism and his own dry heaves.

This film is not fun; it’s a bit of a nightmare reliving the relentless news reports of financial failures and bailouts. Paulson was often photographed poorly in those. His image during the crisis brought to mind Skeletor, so it’s kind of nice to discover that he seems to be a caring, careful man of some integrity.

There may have been some whiz kid out there who could have done better, but considering his boss was capable of hiring real villains and buffoons, Hank will make you grateful for Hank.