10 years ago this week, the best sports movie ever made was released in cinemas
Top of the league stuff.
There are many, many great sports movies. From the somewhat comedic (Dodgeball, Cool Runnings, I Tonya) to the deadly serious (Warrior, Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby), there is plenty of scope for different kinds of sports movies, and plenty of room to argue until the end of time about which of them is the best.
Incredible athletes at the peak of their physical capabilities, performing something that they're naturally very capable of... that makes for some easy cinematic moments.
However, what lies at the core of the greatest sports movie of all time - it is, don't @ me - is the fact that there is very little actual sports shown off. Yes, the climactic scene involves a big sports moment, and yes, the entire film is about one specific sport, but when you get right down to it, Moneyball isn't about sports at all.
Moneyball is about the financially broken system that is weighed too heavily in favour of the teams that simply have more money to spend than their competitors (something that a lot of fans of pretty much any team-based sport can understand). Moneyball is about the hidden worth of those who the broken system have decided to completely overlook.
But mostly, Moneyball is about a man who loves the game and is willing to try anything to make it better for everyone.
And as someone who fundamentally dislikes pretty much all sports, that is quite the ringing endorsement.
Released in cinemas on 23 September 2011, Moneyball was met with only okay box office ($110 million from a $50 million budget), very decent reviews (94% on Rotten Tomatoes) and some Oscar attention (six nominations including Best Picture, but zero wins).
In the decade since then though, the movie has been appreciated in a new light, not only for casting a light on a dodgier aspect to certain sports, but also because it managed to take something as boring as statistics and make it incredibly exciting.
The plot is painfully simple: the Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is attempting to assemble a baseball team on a very lean budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.
Originally to be directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada), who was then replaced by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Eleven), it seems as if the original incarnation of the movie was much more of a comedy, with Soderbergh saying at the time:
"I think we have a way in, making it visual and making it funny. I want it to be really funny and entertaining, and I want you to not realise how much information is being thrown at you because you're having fun. We've found a couple of ideas on how to bust the form a bit, in order for all that information to reach you in a way that's a little oblique."
Bennett Miller (Capote, Foxcatcher) eventually stepped up to the plate, adapted the screenplay by two of Hollywood's most famous screenwriters, Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Steve Zaillian (Schindler's List).
The cast is headed by Pitt (nominated for Best Actor) and Jonah Hill (nominated for Best Supporting Actor), with the rest of the cast filled with some serious heavy hitters: Robin Wright, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Spike Jonze, as well as actual former baseball players, all of whom still reject Beane's approach to team-building.
Combined, they take this idea of baseball (roundly considered to be one of the world's more boring sports), combine it with statistics and analysis, somehow resulting in a nail-biting, chest-beating, arm-on-your-hair-raising euphoric experience.
In the end, it is a truly perfect storm of incredible talent in front of and behind the camera, telling a story that doesn't sound particularly interesting, and turning it into the greatest sports movie of all time.
Moneyball is available to watch at home right now on Netflix.