Moneyball – Film Review
Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt.
Director: Bennett Miller
Synopsis: A true story focusing on Billy Beane’s efforts to restructure a baseball team on a shoestring budget and in doing so transforms the sport of baseball.
Review: Sports films often feature scenes of glorious success, and sometimes dark misery for the protagonist in question, whether that be Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt or Niki Lauda in 2013’s Rush. Or Sylvester Stallone from the Rocky series. The viewer watches with glee and sometimes anguish as the main sporting hero is either put through their paces, goes through a horrific event, or comes out on top in glorious fashion. There is that moment where everything appears to be going completely horribly wrong and the protagonist must find a way to turn it all around. However, in the case of Moneyball, there is a remarkable absence of sporting-y action to witness. Is this a problem? Well no not really, because director Bennett Miller to use a baseball analogy, has hit a home run to win the championship with this remarkable tale of triumphing against the odds. It’s not all balls, bats and runs that define this engaging story, but one of numbers, facts, and one man’s relentless desire to see his methods through.
The story focuses on Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) as the general manager of the Oakland Atheltics, who has the unenviable task of rebuilding the club’s squad after a number of high profile exits, yet he has to operate on a very small and tight budget, with not much room for negotiation. Through his challenges he hires economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) and together, they develop some unprecedented ideas about the value of a player and seek to revolutionise the very nature of the sport and change the game forever. It’s not about the big dollars of a brand new signing, but rather the clever way to cut costs down and still produce a team that is capable of challenging for the very top honours in the sport. This may not sound like a thrilling premise, or one to get the pulses racing like many other sports films would. However, the sport is on the periphery of this story, and even if you have never watched a baseball match before, or have no interest in the sport, it is not a vital ingredient of the enjoyment of this movie, that comes in the shape of their performances and the brilliant screenplay penned by The Social Network‘s Aaron Sorkin. One could think you’re sat in the middle of a very boring maths class with all these stats and numbers being chucked in your direction, and you’re sat there struggling to make sense of it all. However, thanks to the excellent screenplay and dialogue, this is not so.
The acting here is certainly championship quality with Brad Pitt really shining in the lead role as Billy Beane. He anchors the movie with his usual charm and you root for him, because he’s the underdog, going up against all the seasoned scouts who ridicule him and his seemingly preposterous ideas. Also on top form is Jonah Hill as the economics graduate. A man who has spent many years of his career in comedy and has honed his craft in said genre, really showed his terrific acting ability with a serious and strong performance that earned him his first well earned Oscar nomination. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman also delivered a subdued but nonetheless powerful portrayal of the Oakland A’s manager, and the clashes between him and Beane do provide some first class acting and riveting story-telling under the masterful direction of Bennett Miller. For many sports fans, the action on the pitch, be it football, baseball, rugby, cricket or whatever, is what matters. Yet after watching Moneyball, you will come to realise that what goes on behind the scenes is equally, maybe even more important than what goes on on the field of play.
Acted to perfection, with a sharp and engaging screenplay, Bennett Miller and co have hit a home run, and in some style too, to the tune of 6 well earned Oscar nods.