Director Bennett Miller's previous movie, Capote, was one of the best movies of its year, so it's not too surprising to find that Moneyball is one of the best of 2011. Built around a phenomenal performance by Brad Pitt, Moneyball tells the story of Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane, and his quest to put together a team that will compete with the New York Yankees every year, on about a quarter of the budget. Beane realizes that he can't do that by approaching the same way the Yankees do, he's gotta find a new way of thinking. He stumbles upon Peter Brand (wonderfully played by Jonah Hill), a Yale economics graduate who has startling fresh ways of evaluating players. Almost no one but Billy and Peter believe in their approach, as baseball is an old game and its thinking highly ingrained in those involved. A's manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman, terrific, but sadly wasted in a small role) is the personification of that old baseball thinking that Billy has to fight against, he doesn't understand (or care) how wildly inventive what Billy is trying to do is, and takes the players Billy gives him and plays them according to his own approach to the game.
One need not know about baseball to follow the movie, it may add some depth, but the movie isn't really a sports movie so much as it is about this guy trying to change the way people think, while having his livelihood on the line if it doesn't work out. Wonderfully handled by Miller as the director, and carried by the performances of Hill and especially Pitt, who is right up there with George Clooney and Matt Damon when it comes to getting consistently great performances from our biggest stars. A really terrific movie.