A film primarily about baseball and statistics might seem a tough sell, but in the hands of master craftsman Aaron Sorkin 'Moneyball' comes alive. The sharp script gives Brad Pitt the chance to shine, but try not to do too much research before going to watch this one - the final scene is a cracker.
If Aaron Sorkin can make computer programming look good in 'The Social Network', why not baseball stats in 'Moneyball'? Brad Pitt is on board to help make the unglamorous world of statistical data sexy, and Jonah Hill takes on a serious role that's been getting warm praise in the U.S. But we do wonder how the story will translate internationally.
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is a former baseball star who never quite lived up to his potential. Now the general manager of the struggling Oakland A's, Beane finds himself trying to compete with teams who have endless budgets and the ability to strip his side of the best talent.
Whilst on a business trip to trade players and prepare for another season, Beane stumbles across Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an unassuming man who seems to have an important say in the ongoing negotiations. Neither a player, a scout or a manager, Brand offers advice by employing a series of complex computer programs to analyse all the game data available to him.
Beane takes a risk, spends a portion of his player budget to poach Brand and starts using a new system to buy in players who might not excel as individuals, but can form the part of a winning team.
Resistance comes in the form of club manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) as well as a number of old hands who want to fight change, but Beane is adamant. Soon results start going the right way, but now the bigger teams want to make him an offer he will struggle to refuse.
If you were ever in any doubt over the acting credentials of Brad Pitt, take some time to enjoy his performance in 'Moneyball' and be prepared for one of the best turns of the year.
Pitt is all over this film, bringing a believable athleticism, business nous and single-minded determination to Beane. His physical attributes work in his favour for once, and he cuts an impressively imposing figure during long passages of dialogue that are just as noteworthy.
Sorkin brought the nerdy world of Facebook to the screen with incredible dynamism in 'The Social Network' and he's done as good a job, if not better, with the initially prohibitive world of sporting statistics.
The direction is clever, it incorporates images, video and audio from the real life events but also tells a smart story of it's own. The Jonah Hill character is a combination of more than one individual but never feels like a convenient addition, rather a fully formed protagonist who helps to bring out all facets of Billy Beane.
It is slow in places, and the emotional engagement might be saved until too late for some, but the final scene gets under the skin after a brutal initial impact.
Sports fans will love this one straight off the bat, but there is also something for anyone willing to delve into the compelling world of the American dream in the consumer age. In showing the little guy holding his own against the big beasts of baseball, 'Moneyball' is a superb drama that has a gut-wrenching final scene that is one of the best of the year.
‘Moneyball’ is due to be released in the UK on 25th November. Certificate: 12A.