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Moneyball

Year: 2011
Studio: Columbia
Director: Bennett Miller
Writer: Steve Zaillian/Aaron Sorkin
Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Tammy Blanchard

I didn't realise until after I'd watch this movie that it was written by Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian but if I hadn't been kept interested the whole way through I might have stopped to ask myself if Sorkin was involved because the dialogue was so smart, fast and realistic.

I'd heard about how it wasn't just for baseball fans and it was a pleasure to discover how true that was. It's hard to categorise – it's not a sports story any more than The Social Network was about computers or even Facebook. It wasn't even really an underdog story like most sports movies are either, even though the team led by general manager Billy (Pitt) is on a losing streak while richer teams poach all their good players.

The story's smartly removed from the sport itself both figuratively and literally, Beane at one point explaining to his second in command Peter (Hill) that he shouldn't get to know players because his job is to hire and fire them dispassionately.

Beane butts heads with the traditionalist selectors and the gruff coach (Hoffman) as he bring Peter – a Harvard computer statistics genius – in to help him select a winning team based on Peter's research into the mathematics of the players' performances.

At first it seems hopeless, but Beane sticks to Peter's system, trading players with all the dexterity of a share trader on the phone to his brokers while the whole thing threatens to derail around him.

It's a true story so it's not too much of a spoiler to say the team goes on to the biggest winning streak in the history of major league American baseball and Beane went on to field an offer from a much richer team to be the highest paid general manager in the history of the sport thanks to his system.

The cast is filled with very accomplished and smart actors, and while Pitt is a great performer in his own right, event Hill shines in the reflected glow from the likes of Hoffman and Wright.

It's the education into modern sport you never knew you wanted, delivered under the radar while watching a Shakespearian clash of characters.

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