Brad Pitt continues to define great acting in Bennett Miller‘s Moneyball, co-written by Aaron Sorkin. The film might not be an instant winner like most are praising it to be, but its performances are consistently strong and passionate. It’s another underdog story in the sport of baseball, but it takes more realistic paths to reach its goals. It’s a good film for the whole family to enjoy, even non-fans of baseball because of its core elements and universal message.
General Manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is sick of getting pushed under the rug. His team is cheap and because of the lack of budget they can’t win a ballgame to save their lives. As a person Billy Beane is constantly reminded of his past every day when he steps out onto the field and his years in the business have slowly given him a new approach on life. He’s sick of not living up to his name and he’s sick of watching a team fall in the gutters year after year.
During a normal post-losing meeting Beane decides that it’s time for a drastic change. Instead of accepting their losses and signing new players to try again, he decides to do something that could change the history of the sport and cost him his career while doing so. He hires analyst Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) to help him look at the sport from a mathematical perspective. No longer will they factor in the players social life or attitude in the locker room, now they will measure a player by their ability to get on bases and to score.
Beane and Brand begin dropping important players in exchange for cheap ones that no one sees any value in. Coach Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is one of many that doubt Beane and his new direction with Brand and try their best to fight this new approach. But once the A’s start winning more and more games, people start to realize that Beane and Brand may be on to something after all.
Moneyball is the story of Billy Beane and Peter Brand as they make history in a sport that no one wanted to see change in. Their goal was very much reached by the end of the film, despite the disappointing feelings felt over some of the outcomes. Beane and Brand not only change the sport of baseball, but they change the lives of many players who were never given a chance. They sculpt the way baseball is played now.
Beane’s journey is much more personal. He learns how to understand life and the meaning of being a winner. His relationship with his daughter reflects on that message heavily and his relationship with the sport of baseball proves to be a personal one that is more about love and passion and less about money.
The film is strongest when it deals with Beane and his personal interactions with co-workers, friends and family. When it tries shedding some more light on the sport of baseball and how the numbers crunch into it all, it starts to lose that initial charm. Fans of the sport will without a doubt love the film, but people just looking for a good movie might find these parts distracting.
The ending is also a troubled one because it sort of nosedives after building up all of that steam. It just ends from a story point and then the film sits around with Beane for a little longer to soak up more of life and the decisions he must make. It’s a good film for 80% of the time, but the ending really feels like a change of pace.
Brad Pitt offers yet another strong role as Billy Beane. I’m convinced that he’s one of the last great actors working today. He’s not afraid to mix up his career and take some challenging roles and he constantly pumps out quality, regardless of the films overall quality. He’s the best thing about Moneyball and his subtle role as one of the most influential people in recent baseball history is given just the right amount of care and character.
Jonah Hill plays the other title character; Peter Brand. I’m not sure why there is so much Oscar talk about his performance, because it’s just a more straight-forward role than we’re used to for Hill. His character isn’t really fully developed or given any sort of characteristics. He just exists to backup Beane when things need numbers attached to them. I give credit to Hill for having no problems switching over from comedy to drama, but he doesn’t really give much to talk about.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is the only real problem I had with the film. He’s a great actor and he does fine with the lines he’s given, but his character is so minor and lacking of importance. There’s no real struggle brought up because every time he disagrees with Beane and Brand they just find a way around him until he finally stops complaining. The character could have been cut and nothing would have really changed, which shouldn’t be the case when you have someone as good as Hoffman wiling to act.
I liked Moneyball, but I didn’t love it. I can see why it would get awards attention, but I think comparing it to other films released in 2011 will easily eliminate Moneyball from any chances of winning. The problems I mentioned above hold the film back from being truly great, but that still leaves it being a really good one with at least one great performance. The story has been told better, but Moneyball still manages to feel relevant and needed. That alone says a lot about the film.
Sony transfers the film to Blu-Ray with another perfect 1080p video transfer. The film is incredibly impressive to look at because it features so many great colors. The bright green baseball fields look gorgeously detailed and the locker room stuff is given enough clarity and sharpness to pop on any TV. Grain is very heavy in some scenes and much softer in others, but it’s there for a purpose and it never once takes away from the fantastic attention to detail.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track doesn’t stick out as much as the video, but it’s constantly churning out natural sounds. The sound is very low and stretched out between scenes, but it pays close attention to surrounding detail, which makes for another impressive audio track.
Moneyball comes with a good batch of extras, but most of the stuff is more technical information than entertaining content. It sheds some more light on the theory the film bases itself on and there’s also a few deleted scenes that would have only extended the films running time without adding much to the overall film. Here’s a full list below.
- Bloopers – Brad Loses It (HD)
- Deleted Scenes (HD)
- Billy Beane: Re-inventing the Game (HD)
- Drafting the Team (HD)
- Moneyball: Playing the Game (HD)
- Adapting “Moneyball” (HD)
- MLB The Show Preview Trailer (HD)
- Previews for upcoming Sony titles (HD)
- DVD Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
Moneyball isn’t a huge achievement in filmmaking and it’s not even a real memorable movie when it’s all said and done. It’s just a good film that showcases talented actors that are able to inject life into real life people. It does an okay job of grabbing the attention of people who don’t follow baseball, but it’s not 2011′s The Social Network in terms of how well it universally relates the story. People of the sport will love this film while the rest of us settle with liking it.
The Blu-Ray is another impressive one from Sony. From head to toe it looks and sounds phenomenal and the extras might provide some more eager viewers with a better understanding of the whole process behind counting stats and comparing to players. The disc is closed out with a DVD and UltraViolet Digital Copy, so fans of the film won’t have any troubles sharing it with friends and family.