Review: The Big Short

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DIR: Adam McKay • WRI: Charles Randolph, Adam McKay • PRO: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Kevin J. Messick, Arnon Milchan, Brad Pitt • DOP: Barry Ackroyd • ED: Hank Corwin • DES: Clayton Hartley • MUS: Nicholas Britell • CAST: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt

Adam McKay, co-founder of Upright Citizens’ Brigade, SNL writer and director of Anchorman is now an Oscar nominee for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. His career in the world of comedy led to this recognition for a film that straddles between comedy, drama and at times documentary. The Big Short is an exploration of the American housing bubble building up to the 2008 Financial Crisis, brimming with the righteous anger of McKay’s liberal politics, as glimpsed even in his more light-hearted screenplays like The Other Guys or The Campaign. This is a turning point for his career now that his big heart and sense of humour meet the intellect necessary to have clarity in explaining the drier details of financial regulation to a general audience.

These details are not explained well at first. The narrator acknowledges that most people would have trouble keeping track and that the financial world’s trickery depends on impenetrable terminology to either bore people or deter them from challenging so-called authority on such matters. Techniques of documentary filmmaking such as stock footage and explanatory text are used to outline crucial details as is Ryan Gosling’s narration. Eventually, the filmmakers attempt an even more daring tactic in breaking the fourth wall with vignettes that address the audience directly. Celebrity cameos break down financial instruments through simplistic analogies. Characters stop scenes to tell the audience about historical inaccuracies in how events are being portrayed.

Ryan Gosling’s character not only narrates but addresses the camera. His character is a deceptive antagonist so giving him the role of audience guide is an innovation. He is luckily one of the few actors charming enough to pull off talking to camera and his taunting responses to the “energy” and “judgement” of the audience carries the same weight of an actor on-stage in the theatre.

These moments of breaking the fourth wall just about work. It’s a fun device that forms the essence of this film as a playful but unflinching statement on the Financial Crisis. This statement alone explains its success in Oscar nominations which also include Best Picture and a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Christian Bale. Bale plays Michael Burry, a real-life hedge-fund manager who identified discrepancies in the American mortgage market in 2005. The “big short” of the title refers to the strategy he and the other main characters employ, to bet against the supposedly-unassailable housing market and make huge earnings once the property bubble bursts. Seeing them trying to convince their investors of the impending crash as they get closer and closer to being proven right, provides the dramatic tension of this film.

Bale comes across as a stereotype of autistic people bordering on Rain Man territory. Socially awkward, mathematically genius, eccentric, abrasive, sees something everyone else doesn’t. We’ve seen this kind of character before and it is far from the standout performance of this film. That recognition should go to Steve Carrell whose portrayal of another investment expert Mark Baum carries weight, vulnerability and great comic timing from his introduction onwards. When one struggles to follow the dialogue, his reactions will tell you what you need to know. Carrell disappears into the character, continuing his recent blossoming as a dramatic actor.

Aside from these two characters and Gosling’s unapologetic banker, the other story we follow features producer Brad Pitt starring as mentor to a start-up seeking to pull off the big short. Pitt doesn’t get much screen-time and for much of it he is silent in the background but he has the reliable screen presence to give his character weight as a mentor figure with the biggest social conscience of any character in the film.

It is somewhat muddled to jump between several unconnected protagonists especially when the ethics of these characters aren’t all that clear. Are they really doing enough to raise awareness that would avoid an economic crisis? If they’re literally betting on the collapse of the financial world, how are they “the good guys” if they stand to profit from it? How exactly were they “sticking it to The Man”? Admittedly, these are questions the characters openly struggle with but they don’t seem to arrive at any definitive conclusions. The Big Short also has a shortcoming that many films on the modern financial crisis have; it doesn’t articulate the voices of people worst-affected by the crisis and if they refer to these people at all, it is in simplistic terms.

On one level, it does seem to side with them by highlighting how much of the property bubble was fuelled by charlatans deliberately misleading poor people and immigrants. Ultimately, it defends poor people and immigrants, pointing the finger at corruption in the financial sector and the politicians who defend it (while having the gall to blame poor people and immigrants for the financial crisis). It even goes as far as suggesting the financial sector failed to predict the 2008 meltdown not because of negligence but deliberate fraud.

Having maintained a mostly light-hearted, adventurous tone throughout the film, the ending strikes a bleak note, reflecting on the lack of accountability since the crash. So little has changed in fact, that the epilogue notes many of the same policies that led to the crash are thriving once again. While this serves as a sobering wake-up call, it does not have the tone of a call-to-arms; more of a horror-movie ending where the bad guys win. The jarring nature of this ending contrasted with the semi-comedic tone of the film is deliberate. It simulates the experience of blissful ignorance as we march towards catastrophe oblivious to the dread.

This is a mostly enjoyable film with a sucker punch of a stark ending. It is also, given there’s already turbulence on the financial markets this year, a timely warning about the dangers of groupthink and systemic fraud. It condemns fraud as both unethical and impractical, since fraud is always discovered sooner or later. Yet its persistence in human culture is truly terrifying.

Jonathan Victory

15A
130 minutes (See IFCO for details)

The Big Short is released 22nd January 2016

The Big Short – Official Website

 

 

 

 

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Review: By the Sea

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DIR/WRI: Angelina Jolie • PRO: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie • DOP: Christian Berger • ED: Martin Pensa, Patricia Rommel • DES: Jon Hutman • MUS: Gabriel Yared • CAST: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Mélanie Laurent

 

By the Sea, written and directed by Angelina Jolie-Pitt and starring both herself and her husband Brad Pitt, is the first time these two have been on-screen together since Mr. and Mrs. Smith a decade ago. This time their film tells the story of a deeply unhappy middle-aged married couple. Oh dear.

So as our story begins, Roland (Brad) and Vanessa (Angelina) are in the South of France for their second honeymoon, in what appears to be a last-ditch attempt to save their marriage. He drinks too much and she spends too much time moping around, popping medicine and not eating anything. After a loooooooooooooong, sloooooooooooooooooow first act, a newly-wed couple is introduced, and it just so happens Mr. and Mrs. Just Married are in the room next to Roland and Vanessa, who soon discover a peep-hole which they can use to view them having sex, and from there things get even…. weirder.

Now if there’s one thing this film definitely has in its favour it’s that it can’t be faulted on a purely technical level. The locations are beautiful, and the cinematography, courtesy of DOP Christian Berger, is beautiful. The colour-palette is brilliant, adding to the atmosphere by showing us the world as seen by a depressive: dull, and nowhere near as vibrant or colourful as it usually is. On top of this the sound design is incredibly crisp and sharp, also adding to the immersion.

The acting from Pitt, Jolie and the supporting cast is on point and there’s an ambiguity to proceedings which works well. Usually in stories like this, the husband is framed as some brutish, insensitive oaf who doesn’t actually care for his wife, whereas here things aren’t that simple. Roland clearly cares deeply for his wife, and makes it clear with the little gestures he makes, such as when he straightens her glasses, and knows when she needs to be left alone. At the same time, it is clear that she has not made married life easy for him, and if we had had time to actually get to know the characters, I’m sure they would have been quite interesting.

The flashback snippets imply what may be causing her depression, and the claustrophobic cinematography in their bedroom conveys how  trapped she feels in there, trapped in her own depression.

Unfortunately, everything else about this film is plagued with problems. The film is a bundle of good ideas balanced by poor execution. The atmosphere-building is good, but there’s too much of it, and it soon wears itself out, then keeps going for good measure – and when the film finally gets to its emotional peak, it’s anti-climactic to say the least. Of course you need to take time to establish that the characters are depressed, but there’s a line between establishing a plot point and beating the audience over the head with it, and if you keep beating people over the head with the one and only good plot point you were able to come up with, then they’re going to get very bored very fast.

By the Sea wants to be a big, serious, dramatic, slow-paced mood-piece, but it doesn’t have enough ideas for a feature, and would have been much better off as a short film, and, as a result, it’s relentlessly padded to the point of monotony; its plot very loudly and dramatically goes absolutely nowhere; no-one’s character is developed in any way – not even the two leads, and when you can spend two hours with a character and know barely anything about them, then you know the writing has failed miserably.

 

Darren Beattie

15A
122 minutes (See IFCO for details)

By the Sea is released 11th December 2015

By the Sea – Official Website

 

 

 

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Fury

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DIR: David Ayer • WRI: Juliette Towhidi, Cecelia Ahern PRO: Simon Brooks, Robert Kulzer  ED: Tony Cranstoun DES: Matthew Davies CAST: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal

War is bad. This mantra has been hammered into the minds of cinemagoers since the dawn of the medium. Not that we’ve ever actually learned from it. With violence so prominent in not just popular entertainment but in the very world around us it’s easy to become desensitised to a man’s screams as he writhers in agony on screen. Every now and again, however, a film is made that offers such a raw, unflinching insight into the actual horrific reality of warfare that it promises to linger in the minds of its audience long after the credits roll. David Ayer’s Fury is one such film.

It’s April 1945 and the Allies are pushing ever closer into the epicentre of the Nazi regime in the German heartland. Sergeant Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Pitt) commands a five-man Sherman tank called ‘Fury’ through a ravished countryside; his team find themselves surrounded by death and brutality – but it’s just another day’s work for the battle-weary crew.

Fresh faced Norman Ellison (Lerman) has spent the war in a cosy clerical position but the death of the Fury’s co-driver propels him into a position with a lot more action, excitement and, of course, danger whether he wants it or not. As Ellison faces combat for the first time he discovers the animalistic savagery that conflict induces in people, soldiers and civilians alike.

One could say there is a lack of subtly in Ayer’s approach to violence; there’s never any allusion to it, we get it served straight up cold on a plate. For the most part I would say this is a fair argument. That tank looks like it’s about to roll over a soldiers head… You’re going to see that soldiers head explode in a bloody mess no question. People being burned alive… Ayer’s got you covered and then some. But let’s be honest, the men on the battlefield were not spared a quick camera cut away from their friend’s bullet ridden bodies so why should we? Stuff like that happened in WWII. It happens today. For all the gore in this film (and yes it is exceptionally gory, you know, like war) it never felt like it was being exploitative. Ayer captures the audience in a vice, proclaiming ‘See! See! This is what happens in war!’ The film’s imagery is shocking yet it is by far its strongest element. Because the film has problems. Boy, does it have problems.

Many fascinating true stories of bravery against impossible odds emerged from the hell that was the Second World War. Fury is not one of them. The events of the film are not historical fact they are the product of Ayer’s imagination. Now, of course, not all films have to be based on a true story just because they’re set in a historical time period. However, it does make the film seem all the more ego-stroking.

One of the biggest themes the film was trying to convey was that war consists of individuals with personalities, likes, dislikes, friends, lovers and what not rather than just faceless masses of marching brigades. And yet the humanity of the American characters is only confirmed through the dehumanisation of the German soldiers. We’re supposed to feel deeply saddened when an Allied troop dies, yet feel a sense of smug satisfaction when a soldier on the Nazi side perishes – it’s an uncomfortable contrast and somewhat undermines the overarching concerns of the film.

Ayer had the perfect opportunity to explore the grey area of conflict but instead decides to stick with the comfortable (but inaccurate) ‘we’re the good guys; they’re the bad guys’ shtick. Disturbingly enough it also means that the atrocities committed by American forces-such as gunning down children are somehow justified in this context. At one point the by now not so dewy-eyed Ellison actually screams out “Fuck you Nazis! Fuck you!” A lack of nuance in the depiction of violence is forgivable but this is just bad dialogue.

The film is also riddled with clichés. Wardaddy is the gruff, all-American, Nazi-killing badass, who is also intelligent, thoughtful and even sensitive. Pitt delivers a pretty solid performance but it’s difficult sometimes not to hark back to his other Nazi-killing performance in 2009’s Inglorious Basterds. You must agree: if you make more than one Nazi film where you’re the slaughtering hero it’s a fetish. Lerman is also quite watchable but his character does stink of the old younger-boy-joins-an-established-group-to-prove-himself-and-is-then-taken-under-the-wing-of-the-leader-cos’-he’s-like-the-son-he-never-had trope. All the other characters also play to a certain ’type’- the ignorant swamp hillbilly, the pious preacher (though I must say LaBeouf gives it his all here) and the ethnic token. That said, the tension that would arise between five men stuck for so long in such an enclosed space is captured surprisingly skilfully. They’ve all been driven a little mad by the horrors they’ve seen yet remain steadfast to their goals and, ultimately, to one another.

We get glimpses of real brilliance and ingenuity in certain parts of this film. It’s just frustrating that Ayer could not sustain this throughout all aspects of Fury, depending on tired clichés to carry the rest. If nothing else, this film will stamp one distinct message into your mind: war is bad.

Ellen Murray

15A (See IFCO for details)

134 minutes

Fury is released 24th October 2014

Fury – Official Website

 

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Fury Trailer

fury

Check out the trailer for Fury, David Ayer’s new film that stars Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf.

Fury is an intense action movie about a crew of soldiers who embark on one last epic mission in the chaos of the war’s final days. The film is released in Irish cinemas on the 22nd October 2014.

April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank and his five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.

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Cinema Review: World War Z

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DIR: Marc Forster WRI: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof PRO: Ian Bryce, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner CAST: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, Fana Mokoena, Matthew Fox, Ruth Negga

 

What’s the collective noun for critics? A pack? A coven? A murder? Watching this film I was moved to reflect that critics certainly can display a herd mentality not dissimilar to a rampaging zombie horde. The merest scent of blood in the air about a supposedly troubled film and they can swamp the resultant project in a ravenous tide that is often utterly disconnected from the quality of the final film. In the wider media, judgement is often summarily passed without even viewing the actual completed movie. For instance, last year’s John Carter seemed doomed before it was even released or seen.

Early word on WWZ had the critical masses sharpening their incisors. The gossip grapevine contended that Marc Foster was presiding over a sprawling, incoherent mess with a ballooning budget and a never-ending schedule. An apparently fractious set and extensive, expensive re-shoots seemed to confirm this film was going to be a pre-ordained turkey. It was open season and now…it’s all gone a bit quiet.

I’m as susceptible as anyone to being infected by this behaviour. Who can’t resist a sneaky kick to the torso of a stricken studio blockbuster? They fail so rarely that once one is wrestled to the ground; it’s hard not to relish dissecting the hubris of both stars and studios as gargantuan budgets are wasted on puny ideas. We all know the vitriolic slam dunk reviews are the most pleasurable to write. And probably the most fun to read too. Which by a circuitous route brings me to World War Z and I gotta say – it’s not half bad. That is a backhanded compliment in blockbuster season but bear in mind Man of Steel is half bad. Granted that horribly elongated concluding fight is not really half the movie – it just feels like it is.

World War Z certainly opens strongly as chaos grips gridlock in downtown Philadelphia. A palpable and organic sense of panic is superbly evoked and maintained as Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family are enveloped in a stampede of swarming bodies. At first, it’s spookily unclear what people are fleeing from. We’ve seen scenes like this before and it’s usually a wall of water or Godzilla.  The reveal that it’s blood thirsty commuters acting in a cannibalistic manner is deeply unnerving. This is no shuffling zombie saunter. It’s a torrent of milling indistinguishable limbs and manic propulsion.

Gerry quickly displays the resourcefulness and survival skills that suggest a past beyond suburban dad. And so it transpires – in the middle of a nationwide outbreak, Gerry gets a call from his former employer the U.N. to track down the source of the zombie virus. After some pitifully hilarious protestations that he’s not a hero, Gerry embarks on an extremely heroic world tour of zombie hotspots as he traces the evolution of the outbreak. The plot doesn’t really advance much before that really. The film moves at the now customary breathless blockbuster pace but to my mind, this project justified that pacing more than most. The world is literally being devoured. Gerry’s in an understandable hurry. So the action switches from South Korea to Jerusalem to Wales with sequences of varying effectiveness in each location.

Cleverly, the film amps up Pitt’s hero stature by populating the cast with emerging and unknown actors rather than the usual rota of reliable and recognisable character actors. Everyone acquits themselves well even if the writers push the boat out on thankless female roles by literally pushing the ostensible female lead Mireille Enos out onto a boat where she spends most of the movie looking elegantly stressed. Or ringing her husband at the exact wrong moment.

Against the odds, Marc Foster emerges with some credit. Or is it damning him with faint praise to say he doesn’t ostensibly do anything wrong. Some of the bigger scenes like the storming of Jerusalem are impressively rendered. There’s nothing as problematic as his chronic mishandling of the action in Quantum of Solace (or ‘Pond of Wood’ as Mark Kermode deliciously dubbed it). Could it be that Foster is simply on a learning curve himself where he gets to evolve and improve with each outing? He’s learning in public on a big canvas but keeping creative control of a mammoth project like this must be a head wrecker. This could have been a career wrecker but by accident or design, ‘WWZ gets there in the end.

In the third act, World War Z bucks another prevalent trend. Apparently, out of necessity but regardless of the reasons, this film reverses the blockbuster tendency to ram up the scale as the finish line approaches. Apparently, the ultra busy scribe Damon Lindelof was drafted in to construct an emergency ending and a lean, tense and unbearably claustrophobic sequence set in a lab was constructed as a band-aid remedy. Well sometimes, band-aids are needed and sometimes they work. In this case, I think the action is focused down to telling effect. While other blockbusters invariably resort to bombast and visual frenzy, WWZ distils the essence of the film down to stillness and silence. Instead of the typical ear-drum damaging souped up sound, we get unforgiving quiet. Instead of drowning in zombies, Gerry is confronted by one zombie clacking his teeth in a deeply creepy manner.

It’s not perfection by any means especially when the film has no real sense of closure: only a cocky insinuation that a sequel is going to be needed for viewers to see any more. WWZ may still fail but I don’t think it’s a failure. However in a bid to please everyone, it may please no one. Too unfaithful to the source material to please die-hard fans of the book. Too bloodless to placate gore hounds. Too internationally focused for an American audience. Too inconclusive and open ended for those seeking a rounded one-off cinematic experience. In falling between so many stools, the danger is the film is regarded as a stool of a whole other variety.

It isn’t. It’s not Grade A but it’s not Grade Z either.

 

James Phelan


115 mins

15A (see IFCO website for details)

World War Z is released on 21st June 2013

 

 

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Competition: Win tickets to ‘World War Z’ premiere

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Win tickets to the epic World War Z

Thanks to the good people at Paramount Pictures we have 10 pairs of tickets to give away to the Irish premiere of World War Z, which opens in cinemas everywhere from Friday, 21st June.

The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop a pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.

Enter our competition to be in with a chance of being amongst one of the first audiences in the world to see World War Z at its Irish premiere in Dublin’s Savoy Cinema on Tuesday, 18th June.

Simply answer the following question:

Which Irish actress plays a W.H.O. Doctor in World War Z? Is it:

a) Ruth Negga

b) Angelina Ball

c) Nora-Jane Noone

Email your answer to filmireland@gmail.com before 2pm on Friday, 14th June. Please include a postal address.

The Film Ireland Hat will be called into action and will select 10 lucky winners, who will each win a pair of tickets to Tuesday’s premiere.

Please note that this film has a 15A cert.

 

World War Z is in cinemas everywhere in 2D & 3D June 21st

 

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Cinema Review: Killing Them Softly

DIR/WRI: Andrew Dominik   PRO: Dede Gardner, Anthony
Katagas, Brad Pitt, Paula Mae Schwartz, Steve Schwartz  DOP: Greig
Fraser • ED: Brian A. Kates, John Paul Horstmann • DES: Patricia Norris 
Cast: Brad Pitt, Scott McNairy, Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, Richard
Jenkins, Ben Mendelsohn

Although only on his third feature film in 12 years, Australian
writer/director Andrew Dominik has garnered quite a reputation for
himself. Having debuted with his homegrown black comedy Chopper in
2000 (which launched the film career of then TV comedian Eric Bana)
about Australia’s most notorious criminal, Mark ‘Chopper’ Reed,
Dominik took an extended break from filmmaking before returning with
the masterful The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert
Ford in 2007.

Originally set to be released in 2006, Dominik’s take on the famed
American outlaw was delayed due to an on-going battle with Warner
Bros. to gain control of the final cut of the film (the studio were
angling towards a more action-driven picture, while Dominik was aiming
for a meditative feel), The Assassination of Jesse James… was
critically lauded, and would be recognised with two Academy Award
nominations for Casey Affleck and cinematographer Roger Deakins.

With such a prolific double whammy on his back catalogue, anticipation
was always going to be high for his next release, and with Jesse James
star Brad Pitt once again on leading man duties, Killing Them Softly
has all the appearance of a sure thing.

Dominic updates George V. Higgins’ Boston-set 1970s novel Cogan’s
Trade (the film’s original title) to modern-day New Orleans, where
Pitt’s Jackie Cogan, a professional enforcer, is brought in to
investigate a robbery of mobster Ray Liotta’s high-stakes poker game
by a pair of small-time crooks, played by Monsters’ Scoot McNairy and
Ben Mendelsohn (recently seen as the snivelling John Daggett in The
Dark Knight Rises).

Having previously organised the theft of his own game, people suspect
that Liotta may be the one behind it again, but Cogan suspects
otherwise, and he enlists the help of ‘New York’ Mickey to get to the
bottom of it.

Having set the bar so high with his extraordinary sophomore effort, it
is inevitable that his take on a straightforward crime thriller
wouldn’t have the same impact. Yet, though the use of archival footage
of George W. Bush and Barack Obama doesn’t really take effect until
the final moments, Killing Them Softly is nevertheless a slick and
stylish (and often darkly humorous) film, that will find favour with
fans of the genre, as well as Dominik and Pitt devotees.

Though he is off-screen for much of the opening-third of the film,
Pitt is on terrific form as Cogan, bringing the same kind of
effortless cool to the role that we have seen from the Oklahoma man in
films like Ocean’s Eleven, Inglourious Basterds, Fight Club and last
year’s Moneyball.

The supporting performances are also on the money, with the reliable
Richard Jenkins building up a good rapport with Pitt as his secretive
contact with an anonymous benefactor, McNairy and Mendelsohn are
perfectly cast as the hapless criminals at the centre of the piece,
and it is interesting to see a Sopranos reunion of sorts with
Gandolfini, Vincent Curatola and Max Casella cropping up alongside
Liotta, a gangster film veteran.

At 97 minutes, Killing Them Softly is somewhat slight (and like Jesse
James its running time was originally much longer), but it still comes
with a high recommendation, and the Dominik/Pitt partnership is one
that both parties should be eager to expand upon in the future.

Daire Walsh

18 (see IFCO for details)
97mins

Killing Them Softly is released 21st September 2012

Killing Them Softly – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Moneyball

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DIR: Bennett Miller • WRI: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin • PRO: Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz, Brad Pitt • DOP: Wally Pfister • ED: Christopher Tellefsen • DES: Jess Gonchor • CAST: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill

Sabermetrics is a term coined by Bill James and defined as ‘the statistical and mathematical analysis of baseball records.’ Moneyball is a true story about statistics and baseball. No wait come back! It stars Brad Pitt; is directed by Bennett Capote Miller; has a screenplay by Steven Schindler’s List Zaillian and Aaron The Social Network Sorkin and is shot by cinematographer Wally Inception Pfister. Surely a team this gifted can overcome the usual strikeout rate for baseball movies outside of the US (where it has already taken a respectable $70 million)?

Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, a retired baseball player turned general manager of the Oakland Athletics. Due to the team’s limited budget, the A’s are largely a feeder club; annually losing their star players to the teams with deeper pockets, i.e. every other team. Following the loss of their three top players in 2002, Beane takes a radical approach to baseball management after meeting economist Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Brand is an advocate of the Bill James school of thought and convinces Beane that the established system of baseball player acquisitions is skewed and that he can get a winning team within his meagre budget – a team of apparently washed up players and misfits that other teams have disregarded. Beane must risk it all and go against established baseball practice if he wants to win within his limited budget and change the game forever.

As far as plots go – just like Brand’s theory – this one is a hard sell. Statistics and baseball don’t make for a dream team on this side of the Atlantic. At least Moneyball’s team of players are nothing like misfits in Hollywood. Not only does this team win, they hit a home run, with the script, direction and acting combining to knock it out of the park.

The script is sharp, reminiscent of Sorkin’s The Social Network. Dialogue is witty and feels accurate (real-life baseball players and management were central to the production) without ever slipping into the melodrama so common in sporting movies. The direction is similarly minimalist. Pfister utilises a documentary style with natural lighting and an unobtrusive camera, enhancing the realism of the biopic. The acting is most noteworthy with Pitt and Hill shining in spite of the understated tone of the film.

The presence of Pitt was crucial to this film getting off the ground and he excels in the lead role. His natural charisma and svelte athleticism make him immediately convincing as an ex-pro athlete. Hill is similarly impressive in his finest role yet as the nerdy statistician. Both are utterly convincing and inhabit their roles without ever distracting from the film’s plot. These aren’t the flashy roles that cry out for Oscar® recognition and are doubly deserving as a result.

Moneyball will be a hard sell outside of the US but deserves to succeed. Whether it’s a curve ball or not for the Oscars® remains to be seen but it deserves to be in the starting line-up come awards season.

Peter White

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
Moneyball is released on 25th November 2011

Moneyball – Official Website

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