The best film of '11 hands down and (aside from 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo') it wasn't even particularly close. My thoughts that this is a masterpiece must be taken with a small grain of salt as I am a baseball fanatic who vividly remembers these events happening in real life, but regardless, it is just an extraordinary film.
As I said, the fact that I remember all this actually happening (down to the details of the trades, the media coverage and the 20 game win streak) adds a great amount of value. All the names, meetings, transactions and confrontations actually did happen, and the fact that its a 100% true story adds to the films value exponentially.
Aside from my attachment as a baseball fan and its historical truths, the film succeeds on every level simply as a film. The acting is top notch all around. Brad Pitt is absolutely on his A game, bringing the real life Billy Beane to life flawlessly. Veterans like Hoffman, Wright, Pratt and Jennings are all excellent in supporting roles, but surprisingly, it is Hill who steals the show as Peter Brand, the man who was actually the brains behind the Moneyball philosophy.
The script is spectacular, sticking very close to the book from which it is based. It creates multi-layered characters who just pop off of the screen. The direction is terrific, splicing real game footage with reenactments which are pulled off flawlessly. Its overall execution, cinematography, scoring and story flow are just great.
Another thing that helps this movie greatly is that it isn't one of those typical 'feel good' sports movies. Its actually kind of bleak and does not leave you on a high note, which I respect alot in a genre known for happy endings. It has a very 'The Social Network' sort of feel to it. Kind of brooding and introverted. That isn't to say that its dark by any sense because its actually very funny, but it is seriously taken, and a serious film at its core.
The only negative I can think of isn't a gripe with the movie, but rather its timing as far as where the A's are at right now, and its contributions to building of a false legacy. The fact of the matter is that Moneyball doesn't work. There's a reason the A's won in 2002 and 03, and it wasn't because of sabremetrics, it was because of something called 'The Big 3'; three ace caliber starting pitchers Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito who were flat out untouchable during their years with Oakland in the early 2000's, including Barry Zito's Cy Young award winning '03. This movie (like the book) hardly mentions them despite their being the actual backbone of the A's winning ways rather than the Moneyball formula. The A's have been to the playoffs once since '03, and at this current time are the laughing stock of baseball and appear to be headed out of Oakland. Looking back on it, a baseball team can simply not be built on these numbers. All of Beane's detractors in the film are completely and unequivocally correct when looking at the whole story, which really dampens the overall message of the film.
Of course these gripes have nothing to do with the film itself which is brilliant and more than rightfully deserving of its 'Best Picture' nomination. While being a baseball fan will most certainly help, it is by no means a qualification you'll need to enjoy this terrific film. Perhaps the greatest baseball movie of all time, and I don't say that lightly.