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Forty-seven-year-old Pitt is the same age as Robert Redford was as the most elderly "natural" in the history of human movement. Age has gently widened and lined his face, and Miller has devoted no money to giving Pitt the CGI-Noxzema treatment that Fincher lavished on him (or, really, on his audience) in Benjamin Button.
A younger actor stands in for Pitt during the flashback sequences woven through Moneyball. And Pitt now registers a particular degree of masculine sadness. Even Moneyball's funniest moments don't stray far from Beane's regret. A five-tool player Pitt is not, but Miller allows him to examine figures through reading glasses, tear up at his preteen daughter's precocity, and enjoy a couple of barbell-curls-as-mental-turmoil scenes that edge near some of the more polished home-gym informercials. He's everything Pitt needs in a director.
Miller, MIA since 2002's Capote, has made up for lost time by making Moneyball two or three movies at once. It's a thoroughgoing entertainment, but its purposeful lack of discipline, which splits Machiavellian backroom argument with Bad News Bears misfitism, leaves his debt to other filmmakers too apparent. He nods, for instance, at Steven Soderbergh, the project's original director, by shoving a Wendy's Superbar of drippy foodstuffs into Pitt's mouth, recalling Pitt's always-eating character in Soderbergh's Ocean's movies.
There's more than a touch of Fincher's sodium-light palette here, too: 30-watt interiors and creeping jaundice. Even All the President's Men had the well-lighted offices of The Washington Post to occasionally remind us what Redford and Dustin Hoffman looked like. Moneyball plays with Beane's destination by moving him up and down concourse tunnels and on and off daytime highways, rarely sending him into light when a shadow is available.
Miller and cinematographer Wally Pfister (on loan from Christopher Nolan and his midnight-black Batman saga) like closeups, the darker the better. A couple of early scenes showing scouts pimping their prospects send Old Spice aftershave and Mitchum deodorant wafting down from the screen. But they also jam more men into those tight frames than they allow into the long shots of men at work — not just players but Beane, too. Miller uses the camera to remind you at all times that baseball's romance owes much to the loneliness of the man in the batter's box or on the mound or under the falling fly ball.
No wonder they're lonely — the whole of baseball may be out to get them. So what starts as a post-9/11 noir sets up the decade following the 2002 season as one of alarming economic indicators. The game has been a metaphor for too many things already, but Moneyball justifies one more: baseball as class warfare.