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Moneyball - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

BRAD Pitt’s latest may seem like a hard sell for anyone not up on their baseball but, if anything, a lack of knowledge of the game works in the film’s favour, as does another sparkling script from Aaron (The Social Network) Sorkin and some really great performances.

The true story of how Oakland Athletics manager Billy Beane (played by Pitt) transformed the game by trying out a statistical system of team-building and results-getting devised by a younger Yale graduate named Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), it’s a riveting and feel-good sports movie that refuses to overlook the darker heart underpinning the story.

When first touted by Beane, Brand’s numerical system (which put player motivation above cost) was laughed upon by sceptical money-men and commentators, including Oakland’s own coach (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman).
But by persevering, Beane set his team on the path to an unprecedented winning streak that turned heads and prompted other team owners to emulate the business model.

As previously stated, Bennett Miller’s film works best for anyone who doesn’t actually know how things ended and, as such, grips like all the best sports movies (not to mention underdog) movies do.

And therein lies another of its strengths… this is as much a David vs Goliath tale of personal triumph as it is a will the/won’t the team succeed story, buoyed by two barnstorming performances from Pitt, rising to the challenge of Sorkin’s witty, incisive script, and Hill, similarly relishing the opportunity to continue his evolution from comedic performer to serious actor when the mood takes him.

Pitt and Hill make a brilliant double act… one that’s definitely worth rooting for and one that isn’t afraid to delve into the flaws that accompanied them, whether it’s Pitt’s initial reluctance to become too personally involved with team players or watch games, or Hill’s early caginess.

Sorkin’s screenplay, meanwhile, delivers several scenes to savour, whether it’s a tense game of player dealing conducted over the phone or clever internal politicking, while simultaneously exposing the ruthless and sometimes cynical streak that underpins many elements of the modern game (be that baseball, football or any other sport you care to mention).

Miller, meanwhile, ensures that the two-hour plus running time breezes along, tossing in several exciting sports sequences, as well as enough time for his strong ensemble cast to shine.

An ending that doesn’t pander to Hollywood convention also feels admirable, though not to everyone’s tastes, but feels a bold move that only elevates it higher in this reviewer’s opinion.

Far from striking out, then, Pitt and company have pitched a near-perfect sports movie that can and should be enjoyed by the masses for delivering that rarest of mainstream doubles: entertainment married to intelligence.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 133mins
UK Release Date: November 25, 2011