“Moneyball” is not a traditional sports movie, and indeed should be just as gripping for non-sports fans. It’s not a series of Big Games. When it goes to the field, it’s for well-chosen crucial moments. Its essence is in terse, brainy dialogue by the two accomplished screenwriters Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”) and Steven Zaillian (“Gangs of New York”). As in “The Social Network,” abstract discussions reflect deep emotional conflicts. There are a lot of laughs, but only one or two are inspired by lines intended to be funny. Instead, our laughter comes from recognition, an awareness of irony, an appreciation of perfect zingers — and, best of all, insights into human nature.
This is a pretty long movie — more than two hours. And there are a lot of scenes where nothing happens. We spend a good chunk of time alone with Billy Beane in the car. There are plot swings that don’t go anywhere. There’s a lot of actual baseball footage — probably more than has ever before been in a major motion picture. And, let’s face it, some of the crucial questions of the movie are: (1) Will Beane be able to acquire Ricardo Rincon? (2) Will the A’s beat a terrible Kansas City Royals team? (3) Will A’s manager Art Howe realize he should have Chad Bradford, and not Mike Magnante, as the first man out of the pen?
These aren’t exactly, “Will Luke be able to destroy the Death Star,” or “Does Ilsa choose Rick or Victor” sorts of questions.