The most patriotic and quintessential of all American sports gets yet another big screen outing.
Many a non-American has little understanding of the great nation’s game, but there is something “romantic” about it, and in the telling of the Oakland A’s astronomic rise to relative success, it’s hard for any sports lover, or movie lover to not fall for a story and a game of opinions, imbalanced power and will to succeed against the odds.
Based on a very true story, Moneyball sees The A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) once more at the tail end of a near glorious season were, as a feeder to the big guys, he is left with the frustration of annual restructuring at the loss of star players. On a relative shoe string, Billy is the finest GM, but money talks in the wide world of sports.
During a pre-season draft campaign of bantering deals with other Major league GM’s, Billy meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) an economics graduate with an eye for analysis who has devised a ‘Moneyball’ system were players are rated on the hard stats of performance without the discrimination of age, reputation or what their girlfriend looks like; a system that may just create a championship winning team from a band of discarded misfits.
As true sporting underdog stories go, there aren’t many better, and in Pitt’s central protagonist a chief harbouring angst towards a sporting system that broke its own youthful promises and a personal mission to fight the power and preserve purity for the game where anyone can, and should succeed.
As a story of the imbalances of professional sports, Billy’s and the A’s tale is superb, mirroring not just baseball’s commercial power but many of the world’s sports, where players are commodities, indispensable one moment and discarded the next.
Billy is the hardball king, his firm approach no doubt the product of the system that has done the same to him when all the talent in the world doesn’t compensate for the most essential sporting ability of going out there and smashing it!
Pitt is superb as the A’s principal, handling the ‘professional’ side of the game of cutting and putting a team to together with clinical remoteness, and in his influencing and controlling of his detracting senior scouts he remains a man certain of his charge, suffering no fools in his mission to change up the game and move away from archaic and intuitive methods which prejudice potential all stars.
Beneath his Hardball persona, Pitt flexibly portrays Billy as a restrained leader of genuine heart with care for the game and love for his daughter Casey (Kerris Dorsey), and in his central collaboration with boffin Peter, an unlikely friendship with a man whose radical approach, and success, gives him kudos to find his place in the most unlikely of arena’s and a platform to challenge Boss Billy and his own restricting fears born from failure.
Hill’s performance is understated too as the geek in a world of sportsmen, whose lateral thinking provided a real world blueprint for budgeted success, Hill bringing his usual likeable comic style of acting, toning down the mayhem to provide a consummate portrayal of a nerd who lacks the physical smarts to play the game, but the genius and foresight to change it.
Moneyball doesn’t throw any curveballs, it’s a straight up, well told story of the glory and despair of professional sports; and without the schmaltz and melodrama of its forerunners, knocks it out of the park to tell an honest and often funny tale of the true nature of one of America’s own greatest sports.
Who thought stats AND Baseball could be so interesting – 8/10 (Baseball fans 9/10)