Director: Bennett Miller
Writers: Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Stan Chervin (story), Michael Lewis (book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game”)
Running time: 128 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 12
UK Release date: 25th November 2011
Watched on Sky+ Sunday 9th September 2012.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
I was intrigued to see this film when it came out not because I’m a fan of baseball, it’s not big here in the UK, but because I heard Aaron Sorkin was one of the screenwriters. I have been a bit of a fan of his work ever since ‘The West Wing’ and I always make a point of seeing it whenever I can. Sadly this one didn’t make it to my local cinema and so I waited for it to make it to the small screen. I was pleasantly surprised; not the long emotional speeches you would normally associate with Sorkin, slightly more muted, but his mark is unmistakably there. I will tell you more after this very brief summary.
This film plots the rise of a struggling baseball team, the Oakland A’s, and how they achieved this remarkable goal. We concentrate on the general manager, Billy Beane, a former player who never quite made it but found a niche for himself in management. Having lost his star players at the end of the previous season he has to rebuild the team. He comes across a Yale Economics graduate, Peter Brand, who has some interesting theories. Taking Brand’s advice, Beane begins to recruit new players much to the dismay of the scouting and coaching staff. The season of 2002 doesn’t start well; they have many of the right players, according to Brand, but the coach, Art Howe, won’t play them to their strengths. He can’t see what the statistics are telling Brand and so does what he feels is best. Eventually Beane has had enough and makes some changes to the playing staff that forces Howe to play the team as intended. The change in fortunes is remarkable and they go on a record-breaking run of wins… But will they win the ultimate prize? Well, if you’re a fan of baseball you’ll already know the answer to that, but I’ll leave it there for those that don’t follow the sport.
Very well made with some nice visuals, I particularly liked the use of actual sports coverage and news reports, it gave the story a sense of realism. All the performances were very good; Brad Pitt, who also produced, did a great job as Billy Beane. Jonah Hill was also excellent as Peter Brand; he added some nice comic touches too. The coach, Art Howe was played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who I felt was a little underused. I will give honourable mentions to; Chris Pratt as Scott Hatteberg and Stephen Bishop as David Justice.
Quite a slow pace to this one gives the audience time to get to know the major players and figure out just what Beane and Brand are doing. To me, the fact they didn’t include the coach in their plans was a major flaw; he’s the first one you have to convince! Putting that aside, I did find myself rooting for the team as the season came to its conclusion and that’s testament to the writers and the filmmakers. If you can get a foreigner who knows very little about the sport to become emotionally involved then you’re doing a good job in my book. Over all though, despite its flaws I did enjoy this one and I’m happy to give it my seal of approval.
SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED
My score: 8.1/10
IMDb Score: 7.7/10 (based on 117,253 votes at the time of going to press).
MetaScore: 87/100: (Based on 42 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 86/100 ‘Liked it’ (based on 71,889 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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Peter Brand: There is an epidemic failure within the game to understand what is really happening. And this leads people who run Major League Baseball teams to misjudge their players and mismanage their teams. I apologize.
Billy Beane: Go on.
Peter Brand: Okay. People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn't be to buy players; your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs. You're trying to replace Johnny Damon. The Boston Red Sox see Johnny Damon and they see a star who's worth seven and half million dollars a year. When I see Johnny Damon, what I see is... is... an imperfect understanding of where runs come from. The guy's got a great glove. He's a decent leadoff hitter. He can steal bases. But is he worth the seven and half million dollars a year that the Boston Red Sox are paying him? No. No. Baseball thinking is medieval. They are asking all the wrong questions. And if I say it to anybody, I'm-I'm ostracized. I'm-I'm-I'm a leper. So that's why I'm-I'm cagey about this with you. That's why I... I respect you, Mr. Beane, and if you want full disclosure, I think it's a good thing that you got Damon off your payroll. I think it opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities.
Billy Beane: Would you rather get one shot in the head or five in the chest and bleed to death?
Peter Brand: Are those my only two options?
Scott Hatteberg: [Responding to being asked to play first base for the Oakland A's] I've only ever played catcher.
Billy Beane: It's not that hard, Scott. Tell him, Wash.
Ron Washington: It's incredibly hard.
Peter Brand: Billy, this is Chad Bradford. He's a relief pitcher. He is one of the most undervalued players in baseball. His defect is that he throws funny. Nobody in the big leagues cares about him because he looks funny. This guy could be not just the best pitcher in our bullpen, but one of the most effective relief pitchers in all of baseball. This guy should cost $3 million a year. We can get him for $237,000.
Billy Beane: It's hard not to be romantic about baseball. This kind of thing, it's fun for the fans. It sells tickets and hot dogs. Doesn't mean anything.
Peter Brand: Billy, we just won twenty games in a row.
Billy Beane: And what's the point?
Peter Brand: We just got the record.
Billy Beane: Man, I've been doing this for... listen, man. I've been in this game a long time. I'm not in it for a record, I'll tell you that. I'm not in it for a ring. That's when people get hurt. If we don't win the last game of the Series, they'll dismiss us.
Peter Brand: Billy...
Billy Beane: I know these guys. I know the way they think, and they will erase us. And everything we've done here, none of it'll matter. Any other team wins the World Series, good for them. They're drinking champagne, they get a ring. But if we win, on our budget, with this team... we'll have changed the game. And that's what I want. I want it to mean something.
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
Official Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/moneyball/