The first thing that needs to be said about Moneyball is that it's not a baseball movie; nor indeed a sports movie, per se. That will come as some relief to those moviegoers who care not a jot for the nuances of America's past-time and are bored by conventional sports movie tropes such as the slow-motion shot, the inspirational dressing room speech and the buzzer-beating finale.

Moneyball is the true story of how, in 2002, maverick baseball manager Billy Beane attempted to overcome a cash shortfall by using science and statistics to turn his Oakland A's into a winning outfit. It was a remarkable gambit that was first turned into an excellent book (by Michael Lewis) and has now become a first-rate feature film.

In bringing the story to the screen, director Bennett Miller (Capote) has assembled a Hall of Fame group of film-makers. Michael Lewis' 2003 book was a real page-turner but when heavyweight scribes such as Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin come on board, you know the dialogue is going to hum. In the main role of Billy Beane, Brad Pitt delivers one of the most compelling performances of his career. It augurs well for Pitt's future (unless he does actually retire at 50) that he is producing such mature performances at this stage in his career. As a young actor in A River Runs Through It (1992), Brad announced himself as a young Robert Redford. That comparison is all the more valid here since Moneyball has inevitable echoes of Redford's classic baseball flick, The Natural (1984).

In a supporting role, Jonah Hill (back when he was, literally, twice the man he is now) is perfectly cast as the geeky number-cruncher who is the X Factor in Billy Beane's grand plan. Fleshing out the cast are such reliable scene-stealers such as Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright.

As a philosophy, Moneyball was only a partial success: as a movie, Moneyball hits a Home Run.

Michael Doherty