Film Review: Moneyball

I’ve always had something of a soft spot for baseball. I’m not sure where my enjoyment from the game came from exactly, or even when it really started. In fact, I’m still not 100% on all the rules. I know enough to get by but with no sense of refinement. And yet, there is just something about it, something about the idiosyncrasies and nuances that has me hooked, that means I can get lost the excitement. I have a belief that if you life cricket, you’ll like baseball. And so, Moneyball is always going to appeal directly to me.

Whenever you hear people talk about American sports, and baseball is arguably up there as a pinnacle definition, they mainly wax lyrical about how it is all statistically based. How in America, numbers are more important than players. Yards, Averages and Points holding greater importance than any other dominator of opinion. And Moneyball is the story of how one man, sold one idea, tried to show that sport could be won by mathematics.

Put simply, Moneyball is the idea that one equation, one number, could ultimately have more impact on the field than any skill, talent or coaching.

And while a film cemented in mathematics, poured onto the world of sports, may not sound appealing to most, it is purely the setting. The location simplified to it’s base form. Because Moneyball is so, so much more. This is a film about people, about strength of character and ultimately unwavering trust in your beliefs. It’s the little man standing up to the bully; challenging the accepted system; not because he knows he can land the knockout blow, but because he knows he’s right. And I loved it.

Aaron Sorkin - Moneyball

Being based on a true story, meant that Moneyball really had the freedom to explore the characters, to tell their tale, and with Aaron Sorkin helping to pen the script, it’s takes an interesting film and turns it into an “out of the park” classic. The writing is what makes this film. Sorkin showed with The West Wing just how good he is at creating real, rounded characters that have humility, depth and emotion, and with unwavering ease he transfers it to the big screen. In the same way, you can instantly tell a well written novel from a literacy masterpiece; you can quickly see the difference between good writing and world class writing.

With a script as polished and professional as this it’s no surprised that the performances of the leading actors are just as stunning. Brad Pitt, while looking like he’s altered his appearance by simply just brushing his hair into a new style, still manages to make you instantly forget he’s Brad Pitt. Within seconds, he’s become Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A’s, and he keeps you stuck in that mindset for the entire film. I truly believe it’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen him give. With his grittiness in Fight Club over glowing larger in my memory.

Jonah Hill - Moneyball

Jonah Hill, while commendable and doing his best, is for me not too the same level as Pitt; he manages to just never quite shake off the rabbit in the headlights, fresh out of school naivety, look and scarily smell, that mean you never fully believe he’d get the power and responsibility he does. Or that he’d be listened to quite as strongly as he is. I think it’s a case that in real life, his character doesn’t exist. He’s a composite born from conciseness and legal obligation, and sadly this sense of density and falseness very slightly comes through.

Moneyball is directed by Bennett Miller, who recently brought Foxcatcher to the big screen, and this for me is miles ahead. His direction layers real life footage with cinematic production in a way that creates a piece that feels realistic and documentary, while all the time backed up by an unspoken fictional emotion. It draws you in completely and holds you there. If you’ve ever wondered about what a director does exactly, Moneyball shows you technically and obviously; because at no point does the story linger long enough to lose focus. Every point used for a response and discarded when it’s function served. It knows exactly when you cut from sport, to character, exactly when you talk and when to show and how to build, develop and break the tension as necessary to ensure constant interest and lasting connecting.

Bennet Millar (Foxcatcher) - Moneyball

This film proves Miller is a stunning director, but more over proves just how good Sorkin’s influence on the writing is, because as soon as you remove him, Foxcatcher is the end result!

I think a lot of people will shy away from this film because “it’s American” and “it’s about baseball”, but to do so is to deny yourself the opportunity to watch a stunning film, produced by talents working at the top of their game. Honestly, it’s a story set in the world of baseball, because that’s where it took place, but it’s two-hours of character driven perfection, that could equally sit in any sport with just as much ease.

Baseball is secondary; the understudy. Moneyball is about the people; in front and behind the camera.

9 out of 10 stars (9 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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