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Director: Bennett Miller
Starring: Brad Pitt; Jonah Hill; Philip Seymour Hoffman; Christ Pratt; Robin Wright.
Plot: Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to assemble a baseball team on a lean budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.
Moneyball (2011) was a hit at the Academy Awards in 2012, notching 6 nominations. Not bad for a sports movie, huh? If that doesn’t say enough about how truly great this picture is, then the following review will most certainly try.
The movie was adapted for the screen by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), both of whom were nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay in 2012, and with good reason. Moneyball isn’t written solely as a Baseball fans’ movie, it’s written as a personal tale of overcoming disaster and reaching triumphant new heights, yet it still manages to romanticise the sport (consciously even to the characters) in such a way that even as a non-fan, you will for the protagonists to succeed. Even as someone who’s knowledgeable of the very recent real-life events that inspired this story, you feel the way the team is built on the line between success and failure and will for them to overcome the odds anyhow. The story’s intricacies really work to build not only realism, but to reinforce that the idea of the impossible could be just about as realistic as the everyday conversation. You see history being made and believe that it’s possible for the seemingly impossible to be achieved. In that respect, the writers have written the archetypal sports movie – this one just so happens to consciously avoid inspirational speeches.
Delivering that script are on-point performances from Brad Pitt, the understated, humble, and quietly passionate General Manager who believes almost entirely that he is ‘bad luck’ despite investing his whole livelihood into statistics. Under his wing is Jonah Hill’s character Peter Brand, a ‘straight out of school’ statistician with a passion for the sport. Each role was played with terrific conviction, rightfully earning each of them Academy Award nominations. Jonah Hill, in particular, was excellent.
Surrounding them was an array of talents, too. Chris Pratt playing the lovable underdog player on his way back from injury was a very good choice and the role must have has undoubtedly earned him some credit in the Hollywood realm. Robin Wright, as the wife of GM Billy Beane, wasn’t on screen much but managed to add to the story, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the coach of the team, was excellent as the old-school philosopher opposing Beane’s vision with a fierce stare and reluctant acceptance of the changing times.
Overall, it was a picture that was delivered excellently by all involved, and so accurately portrayed the passion of a sport while being far enough removed from it to be hugely enjoyable for non-fans, too. With the direction coming from someone who was originally a cinematographer, you can bet it looked great as well. Moneyball will go down as a modern classic of the sport movie genre in my opinion, but it can sure hold its own as a regular drama and is a movie that I highly recommend for anyone who’s ever cheered, laughed or cried at the on-screen success of a character (or bunch of) in the past.