Moneyball at first was a very successful book that detailed what Billy Beane and his staff did to revolutionize the game of baseball. The film follows in suit very well, and due to a very solid script written by Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, The Social Network) and Steven Zaillian it may just be one of the better films of the year. The plot doesn't deviate to far from what was in the original source content and may have benefited from the changes that were made.
The film starts off showing clips of the Oakland Athletics in the playoffs against the New York Yankees, and clearly things aren't going well. The Yankees and their bloated payroll above the 100 million mark beat the A's and their 30 million dollar team. The season comes and goes and general manager Billy Beane is forced to pick up the pieces as his three best players are leaving his team looking for the big money contract that Oakland cannot give them. Jason Giambi is the biggest of the three pieces, the others being Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhuasen. Billy Beane struggles with the loss in the playoffs and the loss of three key players and the lack of ability to fill their spots due to Oakland's significant financial handicap. Beane takes it upon himself to travel to Cleveland to talk to the general manager of the Indians in an attempt to work out a trade for an outfielder in the Indians system to fill the void left by Damon's departure. The deal is almost worked out until a man who Beane does not know advises otherwise. Beane is interested in the mystery man and seeks him out after the meeting asking who he is. The man is Peter Brand, a young Yale economics graduate who uses advanced statistics to evaluate players instead of the normal way to scout players.
Billy Beane buys Peter Brand from the Indians organization and begins to implement Brand's view of players into their way of scouting. Beane and Brand value players that get on base instead of players that hit the long ball. These players that Beane and Brand value are also widely forgotten about by other teams in the league so they come fairly cheap. Three players that they choose to go after are Scott Hatteberg to fill the void left by Jason Giambi at first base, Jeremy Giambi to play outfield, and Chad Bradford to pitch at the end of games. The other more traditional scouts in the Oakland system think that Beane has lost it, and one questions if it has more to do with Beane's failure as a player. As the season comes closer Beane is troubled even more by the fact that his coach Art Howe, wants a contract extension. Howe feels that he deserves one considering the success he has had with the team, and the fact that the team clearly is lacking in talent now he feels that once his contract is up that he wouldn't be able to get a contract elsewhere.
The season starts and Howe does not use the players on his roster in accordance to the way that Beane wants. Beane understands why Howe doesn't follow in line, and it doesn't please him. Beane takes it upon himself to shake up the team a little bit when the team isn't playing up to his standards after a few months and trades away one of the youngest most promising players on the team in order for Howe to start playing the players he vouched for, namely Scott Hatteberg. After the shakeup the team catches fire and manages to string together a twenty game winning streak, setting an America League record. The A's storm through the rest of the season and win the division only to face the Minnesota Twins in the playoffs. The A's finished the season with over 100 wins, but still could not manage to get out of the first round of the playoffs. Beane sees it as another failure, while Brand tells him otherwise. The two managed to change the way that scouts look at players.
Brad Pitt does a fantastic job as Billy Beane, and that is no shock to anyone. He truly captures the role and without him in the pivotal role, the film probably would fair to well. The big surprise is how well Jonah Hill does as Peter Brand. Hill is more known as a comedic type of actor, but he shows a good amount of range in this role. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Art Howe is a bit of a strange casting job considering he doesn't look the part, but he certainly is a talented actor and manages to have some great tense scenes with Brad Pitt.
The casting of the baseball players was also impressive as all the actors looked almost identical to their roles. Chris Pratt didn't have much to go on or any real screen time, but it was very eerie how much he looked like Scott Hatteberg. Baseball fans will for sure enjoy some of the players that appear in this film, and even super agent Scott Boras has a conversation with Billy Beane.
The film is very good thanks to the excellent script penned by Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian and the solid direction of Bennett Miller. Miller's style of direction at times reminded me somewhat of Peter Berg. The acting across the board was also very good, despite a little bit of miscasting. Baseball fans will certainly enjoy the film more than others as it is interesting to see how many players and coaches are still heavily involved in the game today.