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DVD: Moneyball | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Moneyball

DVD: Moneyball

Brad Pitt is astonishingly good in Oscar-nominated baseball biopic

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, changing how baseball is played

It's probably no coincidence that non-American reviewers have been less exalted in their praise for this film than US ones, as it's sort of in a foreign language for them – that of baseball, a sport in love with nerdy statistics and clichés, even more than American football is, which is saying something. And it's true to say that if you don't have a passing acquaintance with baseball there will be large stretches of this film, and much of its narrative, that you will have not a clue about. But them's the parts where you just drool over Brad Pitt.

In Bennett Miller's slow-moving but engaging biopic, he's astonishingly good as Billy Beane, a failed former player who becomes manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, once a byword for mediocrity, but which he fashioned in the early 2000s into a team that was able to challenge the best in the league. And how did he do it? Not by the usual method of throwing money at any young buck who was handy with bat or ball or who could run between the bases or catch with a big mitt.

No, starved of the hundreds of millions that other top-league clubs have at their disposal, he used a revolutionary system to build his team based entirely on a statistical, almost actuarial, system devised by Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (the superb Jonah Hill, unlucky not to have figured in the Oscar nominations), where a player's real worth was unearthed by analysing the kind of stats usually ignored (and which would be too boring to describe here). Players regarded as has-beens and never-wases got their chance to shine, as did those carrying an injury or the wrong side of 30 and, somehow, by using them much more tactically on the field, it worked. Beane faced great opposition, not least from his team manager, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who feels curiously out of place in this movie.

Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin's script takes some liberties with Beane's story, adapted from Michael Lewis's book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by way of the introduction of a fictional character, Beane's daughter (here played with aplomb by Kerris Dorsey). But it is, surprisingly for an American film about sport, largely unsentimental and that's largely due to Pitt's beautifully pitched (sorry) performance, never showy or overly expressive. A hit, even if he didn't get the Oscar.

It is, surprisingly for an American film about sport, largely unsentimental

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Completely agree. Moneyball was a surprisingly low-key sports film more about the back room than the sports field and all the better for it. Really good stuff!

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