Illustration: Adeline Pericart
We laughed, we cried, we sneaked in our own popcorn. 2011 brought with it some memorable trips to the cinema to revel in the joy of film. And so the Film Ireland collection of filmbots look back in love and recall their favourite films of the last year in the latest installment of…
‘… everything… just works incredibly well together …’
Hit-and-miss is definitely a phrase applicable to 2011 cinema, with some gorgeous gems (The King’s Speech, The Help) amongst a host of utterly dreadful films (No Strings Attached, I Am Number Four, and I’m really sorry Derek, I normally agree with you 100% but The UGH Tree of Life) hitting big screens during the year. For those who happened across it, Moneyball is one of those lovely surprises akin to Slumdog Millionaire, as it wallops those expectations right out of the park. Ahem. Unless of course you read some sort of rave review or end-of-year love letter and expected a different type of film, like perhaps, erm, Slumdog Millionaire?
We’ve all seen the typical sports film a dozen times. You know, the one where against all odds the underdogs make it to the finals. The training sequences, tension building, that epic end-match, and finally the familiar suspenseful moment where we don’t know if the last shot made it or not… Well Moneyball does have most of those things, but it just does them better, probably because they’re are all mashed up nicely with the protagonist’s deep introspection
It’s set in the bygone days of the early naughties, and follows the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics and sexy mess Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) from his team’s loss against the New York Yankees. With his lead players leaving for higher paychecks, Beane is finding it rough getting the players he needs with the team’s low budget.
While exerting his outlandish brashness and shopping for players at the Cleveland Indians, Beane happens across Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a Yale economics graduate. Peter shares his theories on the games stats with Beane, including a mathematical formula to find the hidden value in players. Intrigued, and eventually convinced by his methods, Beane hires him as the Athletics’ assistant general manager.
This does not go down to well with the team’s old-school scouts and their manager, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman). However together Beane and Peter begin rebuilding the team from the bottom up using Peter’s calculations. A season of games sees this method as well as their will tested, and Beane is forced to make some tough personal and professional choices.
Even though sitting as a structured sports movie, what really makes Moneyball great is how it manages to miss every cliché. Sorkin also succeeds in translate Beane’s motivation, as well as the understanding of the other rich characters to the screen, without oversimplifying them or the story. This, I presume, is in no way hurt by the incredible cast, who’s performances overall are quiet and powerful. Brad Pitt embodies Beane and even Jonah Hill’s awkward composition character, Brand manages to hold his own against juggernaut Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Slow, strong and steady is how this film progresses, and everything – from the character development to the editing, right down to the gorgeous camerawork from Wally Pfister, the man behind the bulk of Christopher Nolan’s films – just works incredibly well together.
Moneyball, a cinematic home run if ever there was one, is without doubt dubbed for a nomination for this year’s Oscars. *Shakes an angry fist at The King’s Speech*