Sony Pictures, R499
The IPL may not be the family glue it was even a season ago, but who says the intense drama of competitive sport has gone out of your television-viewing lives? Moneyball is a sports movie that deals with all the primal elements that make sports a metaphor of life. Don't get turned off by the fact that the 'altar' around which director Bennet Miller sets this movie is baseball, a game that at best we are happy to be unfamiliar with and, at worst, is cricket watched by folks here praying for a green card one day. Based on Michael Lewis' book of the same name, Moneyball's hero is Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, the second poorest (in terms of money) team in American major league baseball (think of the Kochi Tuskers Kerala if it hadn't gone bust).
Played with effective passion by Brad Pitt (who looks like a spitting image of Robert Redford in many scenes) Beane is a manager who gets off the well-beaten path of baseball economics-philosophy - spend big money to get the best players - because he simply doesn't have the kind of money to get the best baseball players in the Big Wide Park. He is convinced by a Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill) who's on the rolls as a young stats-adviser in another team. What takes place is Beane and Brand (based on the real-life number-crunching baseball nut Paul dePodesta who didn't want his name being used in the film) changing the game of baseball for the 2002 season by using a non-traditional approach of getting players - sabermetrics - and creating history. "It's not about buying the best players. It's about buying players who can win games," Brand tells Beane, who goes against the grain, push this radical plan even before he's convinced himself, and takes on the big boys of major league baseball.
Pitt's star quality actually helps in the portrayal of a man behind a revolution. There are some tonal bumps in the film - after a string of great one-liners, we're liable to be in semi-documentary mode. But the film is engrossing on many levels: as a sports flick; as a victory of the underdog movie; as a story of grit and value of plain sense over razmatazz. This is a must-watch for everyone who likes an intelligent movie with a dramatic punch. And this is especially a must-watch for all the IPL franchise team owners who could put their brains where their money is to notch up wins without spending shiploads on 'star' players.