Moneyball * * * *
Director: Bennett Miller
Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop, Reed Diamond, Brent Jennings, Ken Medlock, Tammy Blanchard, Glenn Morshower, Kathryn Morris, Nick Searcy, Jack McGee, Arliss Howard, Spike Jonze.
A slow moving, dialogue driven Baseball film – that features very little actual Baseball – will almost certainly ostracise a large amount of viewers. However, this actually works on a surprisingly dramatic level from acclaimed stage director Bennett Miller.
Based on the true story of financially crippled baseball team, the Oakland Athletics and their general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who tried to hold them all together. In order to make a winning team with no money, he had to change the sport. To do this, he enlisted the help of smart young analyst Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) and attempted to use a new formula of computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.
How this film manages to maintain your interest – with constant boardroom discussions and talk of Baseball statistics – is testament to everyone involved. Miller’s direction is low-key, adding an almost documentary feel; Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is full of natural dialogue and Pitt’s central performance is subtly brilliant. This doesn’t rely on special effects – or even on the game itself that much – to entertain. It relies on a basic story well told. The formula of sports films are left far behind for this fly-on-the-wall approach to the business side of things. There’s no players pointing to the sky before knocking the ball out of the park: there’s no clock ticking as the underdog tries to overcome the big-hitters. Well, in some cases you could say this happens. But it happens less on the park and more in the offices and boardrooms of the backroom staff. This inevitably leads to talking. Lots of talking. But thankfully, the cast are more than up for the challenge. Pitt (in an Oscar nominated turn) is an actor that has grown in the maturity of his recent roles and handles the difficult role of Billy Beane to perfection. The normally profane Jonah Hill (also Oscar nominated) is effectively reserved and even Philip Seymour Hoffman, in a vastly underwritten role, manages to speak a thousand words with his expressions alone. The only downside it had was it’s over-length. At over two hours long, it’s hard to maintain your concentration with a film that is primarily concerned with number crunching. However, most of the time, surprisingly, flys by.
An unconventional sports film that focuses on a side of the game that is rarely addressed. In our current financial climate, this has been released at just the right time.