The first few clips of the movie are plays from the 2001 ALDS between the New York Yankees and the Oakland Athletics. However the most attention grabbing clip of the entire movie lasts for about five seconds. It read:
New York Yankees $109,791,893 vs. Oakland Athletics $33,810,750
This line is so brilliant because it truly gets to the point of the movie faster than I could turn off my cellphone. You don’t need money to win.
In case you have no idea what the movie is about here is a brief synopsis. The Oakland Athletics had the second lowest payroll of any team in baseball in 2001 and during the first round of the playoffs they faced the team with the highest payroll, the New York Yankees. That offseason on a trip to Cleveland, according to the movie, Billy Beane, the Athletics general manager portrayed by Brad Pitt, meets a player development evaluator named Paul Depodesta, however in the movie this character is known as Peter Brand and is portrayed by Jonah Hill. Throughout the story and movie, Depodesta/Brand teaches Beane that you don’t need money to win because instead of buying talent you should be buying runs. The key that Depodesta/Brand hands to Beane is in the form of On Base Percentage which measures how often a hitter will get on base. Beane uses this key to take the Oakland Athletics back to the playoffs with one of the smallest payrolls in baseball. On top of that, his team played better than the Yankees who had the highest payroll.
The movie is excellent for many reasons. 1. It sticks to the storyline that Michael Lewis so brilliantly described in his novel, Moneyball, which made its debut in 2003. The book, which is written by the same author as The Blind Side, follows Beane’s life with occasional flashbacks to Beane’s younger life as a top baseball prospect. Having read the book, I am very glad that the movie was in a sense very close to the book. Of course this movie isn’t as good as the book but it sure does come closer than most page to movie attempts. 2. The acting is brilliant. While I think Brad Pitt was given a little to much credit I do commend him for playing Beane well. Even though the two don’t really look much alike, Pitt did a good job of imitating a man that etched his name into baseball history. 3. The directing got an A+. The director was Bennet Miller and he did I think the best job of any baseball movie director. The way he integrated real clips from actual Athletics games brought a new found intensity to baseball movies. Throughout the movie there are multiple “in game shots” as you watch the ball travel from the pitcher’s hand to the plate. Miller did a fantastic job of creating the atmosphere of what it’s like to be on the field when the game is on the line. 4. And last but certainly not least Aaron Sorkin did it again. His last big movie was The Social Network and he won countless awards for that screenplay and I think he will again for this. Sorkin does an amazing job of creating a screenplay that is truly able to encompass baseball language with many phrases thrown into the movie that only true baseball fans know. Sorkin also brings in a good amount of humor which surprisingly didn’t all come from Jonah Hill.
Spoiler Alert/If you’ve read the book then this isn’t a spoiler:
To me, one of the most important story lines throughout the book was Billy Beane’s life as a number one prospect. Miller does a fantastic job of going back and forth between Beane’s playing days and his general manager days. Every time Beane has a flashback, that particular memory fits perfectly with the overall story. This was the one idea that I think Miller did a better job of attacking than Lewis did in the book. Lewis sums up the majority of Beane’s playing days in one chapter for the most part whereas Miller spreads it out throughout the entire movie.
In the end it cracks my top five favorite movies of all time. In no order it is grouped with: The Dark Knight, Inception, The Fighter, Memento, and of course Moneyball. In case you didn’t notice Christopher Nolan has three movies in my top five.
I will most likely see it one or two more times in theaters but for now here is the grade I am giving it: A-, 4.5 stars