The Damned United (2009)

Director: Tom Hooper
Starring:Brian Clough, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent, Henry Goodman, Colm Meaney. UK. 1h 37m

This is a classic example of a movie, that despite its inaccuracies, and a niche target audience, is so well made and superbly acted that it is just an amazing film that is easy to love. I’m not into football so I couldn’t fathom how historically accurate the movie is but in fairness the larger more prominent moments of the film are documented and if you’re prepared you can watch some of the tv interviews alongside the movie and they are almost frame for frame.

Much of the movie rests on the shoulders of the lead Michael Sheens’ amazing ability to mimic other mortal humans, while he doesn’t physically look like Clough, it’s so easy to believe it’s the man who possessed Sheen’s body. The movie isn’t intended to be a documentary but some of the dramatisation has rubbed a few characters up the wrong way, and lawsuits were filed.

“They love me for what I’m not… …they hate me for what I am.”

The story begins in 1974, amidst the colourful world of football politics and with lots of criticism and changes, Brian Clough ends up as the manager of a team he’s been known to slate due to their violent practice on the pitch. Already being in the dog house he has to constantly prove himself but the team does start to make progress. Now I’m not going to pretend that I got ALL of the ups and downs of leagues, seasons and whatever, I really don’t know football that well, but I don’t feel the film was wasted on me, it has some really brilliant and heartfelt acting, a few scratch montages help pack in the heavily detailed and hard work that Clough put into the team from cleaning the locker rooms and caring for the club as if it were his child. When tempers fly you can clearly see the calibre of the main cast, Meaney often spends his on screen time in a camel coat, turning red with anger whenever Clough cooly does his thing, and sadly Spall was under used, but each moment on screen establishes an interesting on screen dynamic between his character and Sheen. Both actors are very seasonal and interesting in their own rights.

I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the country. But I’m in the top one.

Brian Clough

Tom Hooper seems to be the champion saving British history one film at a time, soon after this he went on to film The King’s Speech (2010) and the Danish Girl (2015) widened his scope to tell a moving and often overlooked story. All this comes from a man who back in 1997 used to shoot episodes of Byker Grove.

As a tribute to Cloughs time at Leeds, I don’t think a better job could have been done, it’s a shame that the film was accurate enough to cause some hurt to those involved in real events but despite the insults and inaccuracies the movie is still a sterling piece of British sports drama that’s entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable. I feel that I know Brian Clough a little bit more after watching it, a true testament to the keen eye and amazing ability of Michael Sheen, he’s unstoppable.

Rating: 7/10

Related:Goal (2004) , United (2011) , Green Street (2005),
Lists: Football Flicks Spotlight: Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall,


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