Film Review: The Damned United

The sports drama The Damned United [TDAMU] captures a big part of the soccer history in England.  Based on the book ‘The Damned Utd’ by David Peace, the film details the controversial manager Brian Clough career in soccer.  The Damned United won’t strike chords everywhere, but soccer enthusiasts and fans of actor Michael Sheen [MISHE] will find something to root for.   Director Tom Hooper has had his hand in several UK serials, but The Damned United is his first major film.



Brian Clough started off as the youngest manager in the league, bringing Derby County up from 9th place to fight for first.  Along with his assistant manager Peter Taylor, the duo put Derby on the map.  But, what was more interesting than the team was the man Clough himself.  A charming smart aleck who was constantly reprimanded for shooting his mouth off, Clough nonetheless won over fans, rivals and everyone in between. 



One person Clough could not win over was the brutish manager of Leeds United, Don Revie.  Complaining of Leeds’ bulling style on field, Clough had made it his personal mission to beat the team or lead them.  His public attack of Leeds’ playing style brought him into conflict with his own Board of Directors, which he also publicly criticized for bureaucracy and being out of touch with the game.  Clough and his partner Taylor resigned, leading to protests and marches. 



Wanting to salvage their careers, the duo signed with Brighton before Leeds United came calling for Clough, when Revie departed.  Seeing a chance to clean up the game of soccer, Clough famously became manager of the very team he had railed against.  His trusted assistant Taylor balked at Clough pulling out of the contract with Brighton and the two famously went their separate ways. 



As manager of Leeds, Clough had a team and legacy that still treated him like a rival.  Although patronizing, Clough felt Leeds employed too much bullying and not enough skill in the game of soccer.  His coaching was not hitting home as the team failed to secure wins.  After 44 days as manager, Clough was fired by Leeds Board of Directors. 



The fiasco taught Clough to watch his words.  He worked out the rift with Taylor and they moved on to manage Nottingham Forest to first to English League Championships and then to two European Cup championships.



Sheen’s performance as Clough is spot on, detailing all the troubles the manager put himself through.  Sheen is a fascinating performer to watch, constantly in flux but giving off an air of confidence that he can tackle any role.  With an interesting resume of The Queen, Frost/Nixon and yes, the Underworld series, Sheen’s versatility will keep him around for a while.



Colm Meaney, Chief O’Brien from Star Trek plays Manager Don Revie.  Dismissive and cold towards the young upstart, one can get an idea how Revie might have irked Clough.  Finally, Timothy Spall, who is best known as the pesky Peter Pettigrew in Harry Potter series is nothing by endearing as loyal friend and assistant manager Peter Taylor.



If you’re interested in a smartly written and directed film that depicts how soccer is religion in Britain and the rest of Europe, The Damned United is a good one to view.   The film opens in limited release on October 9th.  


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By HSXniknak on Friday, October 9, 2009 @ 04:41 PM        2136 views

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