Saturday, December 17, 2011

Moneyball

By Sati. Saturday, December 17, 2011 , , , , , , ,
94/100 (133 min)
Plot: The story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.
Director: Bennett Miller
Writers: Steven Zaillian (screenplay), Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Stan Chervin (story), Michael Lewis(book "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game")
Stars: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright and Jonah Hill

When I was going to see this film I was certain that I will see a typical sports movie - you know, lots of cheering,  the games and the practice, players being worried and nervous, fans being ecstatic as the team wins, etc. But I didn't know that the writer of the script for the film is none other that Aaron Sorkin, who wrote "The Social Network". The two scripts are incredibly similar, as are both movies - they are based on the true story, they have a protagonist whom the writer and the director don't make into instantly likable character, they are centered around revolutionary ideas and the big pay off to them. "Moneyball" is very slow burning, it focuses on the details and giving the movie a sense of  realism, which makes it into a very unusual movie dealing with sports.
The film will be probably remembered as the movie that brought Brad Pitt his first Oscar win. Is it one of Pitt's best performances? Absolutely - it may be his best one to date. He gets to play a variety of emotions and he creates oddly charismatic and very determined guy. For most of the time Pitt plays the part just using his eyes - it's a very subtle performance, even though his character loses it few times in the movie. But he doesn't yell, he doesn't fall in self pity. He throws stuff. Should he win? Absolutely. As much as I would love to see Fassbender win with his first nomination, Pitt really is the star of the film - the supporting cast including Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman is very good, but they don't have much to do - especially Hoffman. Pitt is always in the centre of the story and because of the meticulous script we really get to know his character over the course of the film.

Billy Beane was in his youth chosen to professionally play baseball based on his apparent talent. He decided to do it and he kept losing, every single time. That scarred him for life and made him feel like a failure. Because of this he doesn't believe in the system of choosing the players - he teams up with young economist who created an algorithm that helps determine who the best player may be. Beane thinks that  relying on the calculations and numbers will work better than picking players based on how talented and perfect they may seem. Nobody believed it will work, everyone thought Beane was crazy. But as usually in movies like this one, based on real life events, you know that by the time the movie is over, the impossible will happen.
The movie is very cold - there aren't many emotional scenes at least seemingly, the story focuses on the process of picking the players and watching Beane struggle silently wondering if he is making the right choice. The big emotional pay off happens in few seconds, 20 minutes before the end and it's amazingly orchestrated scene - the editing, cinematography, music and acting is superb in that moment and after a long process of feeling like you were in the middle of all of it, the success finally appears and everyone explodes, cheering. But the illusion of cold tone is just that - an illusion - "Moneyball" is slowburning and under clouds of chilling style it is beaming with fire and emotions, risk, joy, doubt and the desire to succeed. The ending is also lovely, mostly thanks to Pitt and his great performance.

There is one thing apart from Pitt's performance in "Moneyball" that is completely wonderful and truly award worthy and yet it seems to be horribly underrated - Mychael Danna's score. Dynna's soundtracks were very disappointing so far, but this one adds so much to the film. Tension, urgency, beauty - passionate violins that sound both melancholic, sad but also hopeful. It's even better than Desplat's work for "The Ides of March" and I think with every listen it rivals Alberto Iglesias's work for "The Skin I live in". It's that good. It's the perfect score for this movie and one of the very few instances I can think of in recent memory where the music actually lifts the movie to the higher level of greatness. I'm telling you - I will have it on repeat for days. The piece called "It's a process" is so stunning it almost breaks my heart.
The technical side of the film is also very good - especially the editing and all the little details thrown in to the story thanks to it. Beane feels that him watching or listening to the game will jinx it. Before very important game his daughter convinces him to go see it. As he is standing there on the stadium having listened to her, he looks up on the sky and we see dark clouds approaching. The cinematography is very good and it adds to the movie's slick and reserved script. The clever use of slow motion technique gives a lot of curious beauty and suspense to certain scenes.

"Moneyball" is a wonderfully told story with a lot of realism and a gripping portrayal of a man determined to change his losing streak. It's definitely worth watching mostly for Pitt's strong performance and beautiful score.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome review, the idea of this film doesn't really interest me, but I suppose with all of the praise I must see it now!

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