Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Damned United

Written By: Peter Morgan

Directed By: Tom Hooper

Starring: Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney.

My rating 8/10

The writer and star of Frost/Nixon and The Queen have teamed up again to help us understand yet another British enigma. Although maybe not as notorious as David Frost or Tony Blair, football manager Brian Clough is a great character to bring to life on the big screen. As usual, Michael Sheen is so full of charisma and so nifty with nuance that he nails this character instantly. And, as usual, writer Peter Morgan skilfully tells the story with grace and intimacy.

Brian Clough was the manager of flailing football team, Derby County. He elevated them from the bottom end of the 2nd Division to top of the 1st Division in a miraculous time as their leader. This was well-publicised and Clough became an enormous public figure for a time. He moved to their rival team Leeds United (the “United” of the title) and this went disastrously wrong, putting an end to both his reign as football manager supreme and also an end to his notorious arrogance. The Damned United centres around this period of his life, telling the story of his great and undignified downfall.

You’d be forgiven for wanting to avoid this if you aren’t a football fan. You’d be preaching to the choir here, but as a complete anti-footballist I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It’s not about knowing or caring about the politics involved in the sport, it is about characters and an interesting little story that amuses and entertains throughout. The performances are great, with Michael Sheen yet again proving that he is THE best actor to come out of Britain in a long, long time. Tongues have been wagging about him possibly being cast as Bilbo Baggins in Guillermo Del Toro’s The Hobbit. We can only dream! This is a man who deserves some more attention. The supporting cast are also wonderful, with Colm Meaney doing a wonderful job as Don Revie, Clough’s arch-nemesis.

This film has everything going for it. It’s a small story, but very involving. It’s fascinating to see the background of football politics written in such a way that one doesn’t have to be familiar with teams or names to understand. Quality talent, quality subject matter, quality film. Go see it.

- Charlene Lydon 8/4/09

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