A highly detailed, fascinating slice of baseball history, "Moneyball" will appeal to both sports aficionados and those (like yours truly) who are not.
This is the true story of how Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manager for the Oakland Athletics, met the challenge of a small budget and still built a talented team.
Mostly, this is a character study of Billy, and it's one of Pitt's best performances. Don't be surprised if you hear "Moneyball" mentioned when the Academy Awards season rolls around early next year.
Billy feels as though his hands are tied when he tries to assemble a team. He's always outbid for the star players. He becomes acquainted with just-graduated-from-Yale Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who has developed a formula known as sabermetrics, which measures the performance of players via a statistical process. But Beane's colleagues are far from enthused about this idea of quantifying talent. The team's scouts tell him they know talent when they see it.
It's no wonder this movie is so interesting. Screenwriters Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin have worked on other terrific screenplays, including "Schindler's List," "American Gangster" and "Charlie Wilson's War." They well know how to bring real-life characters to the screen with both flaws and strengths that make audiences root for them.
Director Bennett Miller (who, incidentally, directed Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead role in "Capote") draws great performances from all his actors, but Pitt is always at the forefront. Watch him as he subtly rolls his eyes and not-so-subtly wolfs down food as a man with intensity that can surface in affability or anger - sometimes both within seconds.
It's nice to see Hill in a quiet, dramatic role as the young guy who finds himself being charged with responsibilities such as telling players they are being released from the team. He and Pitt develop a respectful chemistry as the build their own little team of two.
This is a lengthy show - a little more than two hours long, in fact. It doesn't slog, but it does take its time. That's all the better to develop Pitt's character and build some dramatic tension.
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Sports fans in particular will delight in the baseball scenes, so well-directed that they engage the non-sports aficionado as well.
It's one of the best movies of the year - a winner regardless of what you think about Beane's approach.