Brad Pitt delivers his best performance in “Moneyball”

Although there have been a number of fantastic films about America’s favorite pastime, it has been a while since Hollywood has produced a great baseball movie. “Moneyball” is a baseball movie where the most exciting action that occurs in the film is not limited to what is happening on the diamond field.

Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is a former ballplayer who is now the general manager of the Oakland Athletics. In the 2001 season, players like Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon jump ship from the A’s to the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, respectively. Forced to compete with a relatively small budget of $39 million, Beane meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a Yale economics graduate who is good at statistics. With Brand as his assistant G.M., Beane collaborates with Brand to try to rebuild the team by using statistical analysis called “sabermetrics” and cheap, but effective players like Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt) and David Justice (Stephen Bishop) in order to rack up win after win.

Directed by Bennett Miller (“Capote”), “Moneyball” is an entertaining and fascinating look at the game of baseball that both baseball and non-baseball fans will enjoy. It is also not just about the game itself, as the filmmakers takes us behind the locker room to show moviegoers the goings-on of a baseball team that is in need of wins. Bennett manages to detract from the main storyline of the movie without any consequence by showing brief glimpses of how Beane became a baseball player after passing up a chance to go to Stanford on a scholarship. The movie also takes a peek at Beane’s personal life as a divorced father who spends time his daughter (Kerris Dorsey), while trying to reassure her that he will not be fired.

Adapted from Michael Lewis’ book by screenwriters Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”) and Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”), “Moneyball” manages to make statistics interesting with a script that breaks down a list of complicated numbers and names and turns it into a movie that anyone can understand without knowing a lot about baseball. The quick-rapid pace dialogue that Sorkin wrote for “The Social Network” is present again in sequences when Beane is negotiating trades with other baseball clubs.

Brad Pitt’s performance is not only the best performance of his career, but it is also the soul of the film as an impulsive, superstitious and flawed character. He is so superstitious that he can’t make an appearance without feeling that if they lose, it would be his fault. He wants to make up for his failure as a baseball player by risking his job and doing whatever it takes to win. He is also a sometimes ruthless businessman who emotionally detaches himself from the players so that he would not be affected when the time comes to trade someone or send them down to the  minors league.

Jonah Hill delivers a surprisingly good performance as Brand and proves that he is not the just the “fat funny guy”, a role he has played time after time. He and Pitt have wonderful chemistry with one another whenever they share the screen. Phillip Seymour Hoffman has a small but interesting performance as the A’s manager Art Howe, who is constantly infuriated with the decisions that Beane is making behind his back.

Cinematographer Wally Pfister (“Inception”) reunites with Miller once again to create another good-looking movie that completely feels like you are watching an actual Oakland A’s game with some fantastically shot on-the-field baseball scenes. Pfister also captures some solemn and emotional scenes, including a shot of Beane sitting alone in an empty stadium while he listens to his team lose on his portable radio.

“Moneyball” is one of the best films of the year that is more then not just another baseball movie. It is also a character-driven movie with a tremendous performance from Brad Pitt and a great script from the screenwriting team of Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zalian.

“Moneyball”: 5 stars out of 5

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