First things first: you do not need to know anything about baseball to thoroughly enjoy Moneyball. Yes there were a few times when I didn't quite get all the technical chat, but really this is a film about the underdog overcoming adversity to triumph against the odds – nothing we haven't seen before but told with real heart and a fantastic central performance by Pitt.
Billy Beane (Pitt) is the general manager of the Oakland A's, the QPR of the baseball league, a team made up of nobodies who become stars and move on to the bigger clubs. Billy's sick of being a feeder club for those with the big chequebooks and wants to prove his team is just as good as all the rest. The problem is the Oakland A's aren't sexy and don't have money to throw around.
After trying to sign up a player from another team, Billy meets Peter Brand (Hill) who believes he can pick a championship winning team not by throwing around big bucks but by choosing players who can reach the bases and score runs. Of course any new ways of thinking always come up against the old school, and Billy and Peter's plans are met with extreme suspicion by the A's scouts who want to find the players their way, not by using new-fangled computer programs.
For a film about sport, there's very little action in Moneyball. Most of the games themselves are shown in montage so even I could keep up with what was going on. The players are also secondary characters, this film is about Billy and Peter and their fight to change the way things have always been done. Hoffman gets a supporting role as the team's manager Art Howe, teaming him again with Miller, who directed him to an Oscar win in Capote.
The other central relationship is between Billy and his daughter Casey, beautifully played by Pitt and young actress Porsey. It gives the film real heart. Robin Wright also pops up as Casey's mum and Billy's ex-wife. It feels as if a lot of her scenes may have ended up on the cutting room floor.
The film is based on a book of the same name, one many people said would never work as a film and as I said, it can be quite technical at times. Obviously I was intrigued to see Sorkin get a co-writer credit (if you don't know why, listen to our podcasts). But this is not a typical Sorkin screenplay, there's none of the rat-a-tat dialogue you would expect, but there are speeches that have his fingerprints all over them though. And there's an absolutely brilliant scene when Billy is trying to trade one of his players and work two other teams at the same time. It's frenetic, funny and is probably the stand-out scene of the film.
The two central performances by Pitt and Hill are excellent. Hill is very restrained, he gets a few funny lines but mostly he's second-fiddle to Pitt who delivers one of his best performances ever. He's likeable, passionate and you root for him throughout.
The is a hugely enjoyable film, uplifting and packing an emotional punch. It's a home run.