Moneyball is a baseball movie. Baseball has long been a sport which Hollywood has used as a vehicle for movies. Baseball is the perfect sport for telling a story. Baseball is a war of attrition. You live to fight another day and their is rarely a question as to whether or not the best teams made it into the playoffs. Baseball looks like a gentleman's game but anyone who has ever played the game even at a little league level will tell you that it is intense, explosive and unforgiving. As a game it is both a game for the the individual and the team. No one man can make a team, no team can win without the dedication to the cause by every individual. The pace of the game lends itself to storytelling and movie making and when someone does something so fundamentally different from everyone else in the history of baseball that they change the approach to the game it is a big deal. It was about time that someone made a movie about the emergence of Bill James Sabermetrics as a tool in baseball.
Sandy Alderson the GM of the Oakland Athletics started using Sabermetrics in 1995 to help him find undervalued players. Sabermetrics did not get a real workout, though uncredited at the time, until Billy Beane took over the helm of the Athletics and developed the team from where Alderson had left off. Based on the 2003 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis the movie starring Brad Pitt starts with the defeat of the Oakland Athletics at the hands of the N.Y. Yankees in 2001. It was the second time in as many years that the Athletics had lost to the Yankees in post-season play. As the movie bluntly puts it 140 million versus 39 million. The difference between the respective payrolls is pointed and the focus of Moneyball and why Sabermetrics was the solution Beane pursued.
Moneyball is a well crafted movie that has just enough of an amateur/documentary feel to separate it from the Hollywood pack of post-summer Oscar contenders. On the acting side of things there are some solid names in this movie. Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane and does a fine job of being confident, assertive, unsure, driven and loving as could be expected of any actor. The movie is about Billy Beane and focuses almost entirely on Beane but there are moments in the movie where other actors get to make their mark. Most notably is Philip Seymour Hoffman as Athletics manager Art Howe who gives a subtly stern performance that is easily one of the best on screen performances of the year so far. Jonah Hill (Superbad) delivers a breakout dramatic performance as Peter Brand a Yale educated economist who is a disciple of Bill James.
Moneyball is a solid and amazingly engrossing movie which is as much about baseball as it is about money, revolution, resistance and science. Simply put it is a great baseball movie that will appeal to both fans of baseball and the movies.