Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Spike Jonze, Jack McGee, Chris Pratt.
Running Time: 133 Minutes
Synopsis: The story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.
The sports movie, as a genre is primarily all about the underdog, whether your rooting for Stallone’s boxing rookie in ROCKY, Newman’s band of ice-hockey misfits in SLAP SHOT or Costner’s cocky but lovable turn in TIN CUP, there is no mistaking it, the tingle on the back of your neck and the smile it can bring to your face is testament to that. The baseball movie has itself become almost a sub-genre with the highlights being the fact-based scandal EIGHT MEN OUT, fairytale-like Robert Redford classic THE NATURAL (my own personal favourite) and of course the unforgettable and magical FIELD OF DREAMS. By tagging MONEYBALL a sports movie or even a baseball film would be a touch unfair. There is in fact very little of the game in this film, yet still manages to capture the essence, magic and the romance of the sport that gave its fans the legendary figures of Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio. It also highlights the excesses of greed and how most sports have moved with the times and are now run as businesses, as Beane puts it ‘Adapt or die’.
Brad Pitt leads the cast as Billy Beane, a former player who never quite made the leap from burgeoning talent to superstar player. Pitt in fact portrays Beane as a man who resents the game that makes his living for the mistake he feels he made in his younger days, (a significant offer from the New York Mets turning his head away from a prestigious scholarship). The disillusioned general manager of the Oakland Athletics has had enough of seeing his best players picked off and sold to the giants of the game. Unable to compete with the big boys due to budget restraints, salaries and signing fees, Beane develops a strategy along with Yale graduate Peter Brandt (Jonah Hill) to forever change the game for the better.
The film is essentially about the effects economics has on the game. The facts, figures and statistics, but do not let that put you off. Its a fantastic tale that has enough thrilling and compelling moments to justify a visit to your local multiplex. Pitt is at his absolute best and rumours of a third Oscar nod are not far fetched. The supporting cast are fantastic too, Jonah Hill and Pitt are a terrific double act when trying to get their outlandish theory across to the more experienced members of their staff. Philip Seymour Hoffman, reuniting with director Bennett Miller from his Oscar-winning role of Truman Capote, is the likeable but stubborn Coach Art Howe who is struggling to adapt to the pairs new found philosophy. FULL METAL JACKET’s Arliss Howard even pops up in a cameo as legendary Boston Red Sox (and current Liverpool F.C. owner) John Henry.
MONEYBALL is a brilliant story how the little teams can more than make up the numbers in the sporting world when effort, commitment and resilience can certainly give the rich and more established bunch a run for their money. It also throws in aspects about hope, faith in your players and sticking with you beliefs even when the going gets tough. A script by SCHINDLER’S LIST Steven Zaillian and THE SOCIAL NETWORK’s Aaron Sorkin zings with some exquisite dialogue and comparisons with David Fincher’s Facebook film are to be expected.
The film has been released just as the award season is about to get underway, and is sure to be amongst the nominations come the big ceremonies. Whether MONEYBALL can compete with the finest films so far this year in Hollywood, (DRIVE, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY) is up for debate… but everyone loves an underdog remember.
Compelling and enjoyable even for non-sporting fans.