MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
I’ve been very slowly making my way through the first season of Friday Night Lights, an utterly fantastic TV drama charting the highs and lows of a high school football team and the people who make up the community. I have to say, going into Moneyball I was rather hoping for something similarly about sporting camaraderie featuring plenty of sentimentality and heart-wrenching catharsis, but Moneyball has none of these things. It’s just a really solid movie, about statistics. Sound like fun?I must admit I knew nothing about the true story on which Moneyball is based. It’s an interesting concept – The Oakland Athletics are struggling to come even close to their competitors to compete financially. General Manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) has a scheme to try and level the playing field. Along with his Yale graduated apprentice, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), both men attempt to reduce the sport to stats. They try and acquire players with the most economically efficient $/statistical ability ratio despite opposition from everyone within the game, including the team’s coach played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Co-written by Aaron Sorkin, Moneyball lacks his 300 word per minute trademark. But just like Sorkin’s previous film The Social Network, it’s a film about social change. Baseball is a huge part of the American character in a really deep, intrinsic manner and this is about a man’s attempt to change everything people know about it, for better or worse. It doesn’t contain a lot of baseball but it’s an interesting study into a man going against the grain and trying to create his own philosophy and make a lasting difference in the game he loves. Brad Pitt features in pretty much every scene and gives a low key, but really fine performance. The tone is constantly intelligent and engaging and baseball transfer negotiations have never been so entertaining, even for people without a great interest in the sport.
All in all, ‘solid’ is the best word I can give this movie. Everything’s very good without any element quite being outstanding. But it’s certainly worth a watch and without doubt, the greatest movie I’ve ever seen about stats. Can you think of any others?
Moneyball is out now in the UK. Running time: 133 mins. Certificate 12A (UK).
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Review by David Rank