A film about baseball and statistics hardly seems likely to get the pulse racing. Baseball isn’t a major draw in this part of the world, and well, number crunching was never high on anyone’s thrill-seeking list. It is therefore testament to the quality of the direction and, even more importantly, the excellence of the screenplay that Moneyball just about holds your attention for more than two hours.
Based on a true story, it tells the tale of the Oakland As, a cash-strapped club in American Major League Baseball, struggling to take on the big hitters and big bucks of wealthier rivals. Unable to compete when it comes to player’s wages, General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), with the help of Yale economics graduate Pete Brand (Jonah Hill), hits on a new method. Taking a statistical approach, they utilize computer-generated analysis to build a winning team on a shoestring.
The drama unfolds as they face ridicule and mutiny, from within and outside their team and as they challenge all the nostalgic and romantic stereotypes of a game with a 150-year history. It’s here that the film works best the zippy dialogue and crackling word play, pulling you into the relationship between Beane, Brand and their coaches and players. It comes as little surprise, then, to learn that the screenplay was put together by Hollywood heavyweights Steve Zallian (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Schindler’s List) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, West Wing).
Indeed there’s something very familiar about the whole thing, with a lot of time spent indulging in quick-fire banter in darkened offices and empty locker-rooms. It’s when the movie heads out onto the field that it stumbles. Like in many a sports movie, the recreated “action” sequences feel a little, well, staged, especially as they come interspersed with the actual footage from the time. The sub-plot of Beane’s own failures as a player—adding weight to his commitment to this new theory—and his relationship with his daughter also seem a little clunky and overly sentimental.
Despite that, Pitt puts in a nicely understated but energetic performance, Hill plays the straight man well and there’s plenty of strong supporting characters—Philip Seymour Hoffman as A’s world-weary coach is a particular standout. If you love baseball, you’ll love this movie, and if you’re not a fan, you’ll still find an absorbing and enthralling docu-drama that has enough human interest to get you to home base.

Nick Measures
Editor's Rating: 
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Opening Date: 
Thursday, January 26, 2012
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