Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) challenges the system and defies conventional wisdom when his is forced to rebuild his small-market team on a limited budget. Despite opposition from the old guard, the media, fans and their own field manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Beane – with the help of a young, number-crunching, Yale-educated economist (Jonah Hill) – develops a roster of misfits…and along the way, forever changes the way the game is played. It’s amazing that Moneyball makes baseball statistics seem fascinating–but that’s because it’s not really a movie about numbers, and it’s not really a movie about baseball, either. It’s about what drives people to take risks–in this instance, Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), general manager of the Oakland A’s, who’s just had his best players poached by teams that can afford to pay a lot more. Fed up with how money twists the game, he listens to Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who persuades him that certain players are being undervalued for trivial reasons–that statistics reveal hidden strengths that could, when used in the right combinations, produce a winning season. Beane takes Brand’s advice, then has to fight everyone else around him to follow it through. Moneyball skillfully takes the audience into Beane’s psyche. Pitt is in excellent form; it’s an understated but magnetic performance, the kind that rarely wins awards but should. Pitt has the physical presence of a former athlete and vividly expresses the mind of a man who’s never achieved success but isn’t ready to give up. Director Bennett Miller (Capote) shapes the supporting cast (Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, and others less recognizable but just as solid) as carefully as Beane shapes his team. Miller has a few flashy (and highly effective) moments of sound manipulation and editing, but Moneyball is carried by its superb performances. —Bret Fetzer

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