After being defeated by the New York Yankees in the 2001 play-offs, losing three of his key players to bigger contracts at richer clubs, and then being refused more funds for new players by the club's owner, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) hires an inexperienced Yale economics graduate (Jonah Hill) and starts utilizing hard statistics (now known as sabermetrics) to recruit specialized talent who are seemingly over the hill or has another defect which have made them unattractive to other clubs. Will this novel and – to many – controversial approach pay off?
In form and structure, Moneyball is a familiar underdog story which have been known to work ever so well many times before on the big-screen. However, this is no Rocky with lots of action and simple, emotional dialogue. And it's no Youngblood style of film in which the game itself is simplified to attract "regular" viewers. On the contrary, Moneyball is something as rare as a sports film about numbers and tactics. It's not only based on real-life people and events, but it also treats and presents these people and events accordingly, and not through a conventionalized archetype-filter. A film as technical and theory-oriented as this one may sound inaccessible to outsiders, but as a typical European soccer-fan with minimal knowledge about the game of baseball, I say on the contrary. This is a breath of fresh air in a world of movie-making which often underestimates its viewers. Moneyball is a detailed and fairly fast-paced account from an environment about which the filmmakers are never afraid to be specific and comprehensive. And this works as a perfect counterweight to the heart and moral of the story, which is undeniably simplistic, but also inherently beautiful.
Brad Pitt gives arguably the best performance of his career as real-life GM Billy Beane. His performance has a drive and a carefreeness which I haven't seen in Pitt for years, and combined with appropriate mannerisms and a clearly deep understanding of the character, he gives the film the momentum it needs. Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman complement him with fine supporting work in a film which puts Aaron Sorkin's edgy dialogue to the best use that it has been since A Few Good Men. And the fine directing job is credited to Bennett Miller (of Capote) and he conveys the script, which Sorkin co-wrote with Steve Zaillian, with a clear focus about what he wants to accomplish, handling the sentimental and the bittersweet with equal aptitude.