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The Damned United (DVD)
Member Name: JJJJ
The Damned United (DVD)
Date: 20/04/09, updated on 20/04/09 (327 review reads)
Advantages: Great performances, well conceived screenplay
Disadvantages: Fairly Short
In my review of the excellent 'Frost/Nixon', I described British actor Michael Sheen as the 'Rory Bremner' of Hollywood, due to the fact that he often impersonates a public figure, whether it be historical or contemporary, in many of his films. Tony Blair, Kenneth Williams, and even Roman Emperor Nero - Sheen has been there and done it, and usually to a high standard. The versatile actor (whose father funnily enough is a professional Jack Nicholson look-alike) continues the run of mimicry in his latest film 'The Damned United' in which he portrays pragmatic football manager Brian Clough.
Directed by Tom Hopper, the story centres on a fairly small section of Clough's career, in particular, the short-lived managerial job at Leeds United which surprisingly only lasted 44 days. In the film, the arrogant Clough believes the Leeds job will be an easy one - but with a team of players refusing to play for him, and without the support of his loyal assistant-manager Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall), the task may be a tad more difficult than he first imagined.
In terms of the narrative, the story jumps around chronologically, flitting back and forth between the late 60's and mid 70's - a technique which is used to provide insight into how Clough gained the Leeds job, whilst keeping things interesting for the viewer.
Sheen obviously worked hard to get Clough's mannerisms down to a tee, recreating the voice with ease, and looking the part with carefully crafted hair and makeup. That said, on a couple of occasions, I did notice Sheen slipping back into David Frost mode - although it probably won't be noticeable unless you've recently seen Frost/Nixon.
I'm not sure how accurate the events depicted in the film are, as the movie is based on David Pearce's novel of the same name - which wasn't received well by all concerned. From my own limited experience of watching interviews with Clough, I certainly felt that the character had been subject to a little artistic license, with Clough's wit perhaps exaggerated to make a more pleasing picture.
The story goes to great lengths to illustrate the fact that before joining Leeds as a manager, Clough had an unhealthy obsession with the team, and in particular their coach Don Revie. This fascination (which later developed into a hatred), apparently stemmed from an incident depicted early on in the movie where Revie failed to shake Clough's hand - again, an event which i'm not sure actually happened in real life.
In general, Brian Clough is portrayed as overconfident and misguided, but also funny and charming at the same time. On the whole, I would say it's a glorification of the man, although Clough's family would disagree - apparently they were too upset by the portrayal in the book version to actually watch the film. To be honest, it should be the families of both Don Revie and most of the Leeds team who were upset, as the film doesn't exactly show them in the best light.
The Damned United is fairly comic throughout its 97 minute run-time, with Clough's mannerisms and amusing comments making for entertaining viewing. In combination with the newsreel style football footage from the late '60's and 70's which is sporadically shown, the film transpires to be an easy watching and interesting spectacle.
Colm Meaney (also sometimes known as 'Colin' Meaney), puts in a stirling performance as Don Revie, the much loved departing boss of Leeds whose shoes Clough has to fill. Meaney certainly looks the part, and like Sheen, has obviously put in the hours to perfect the accent.
Timothy Spall, whilst not looking that much like the actual Peter Taylor, is nevertheless impressive in the role. Spall's on-screen relationship with Sheen is one of the keys to the film's success, due to the fact that Clough and Taylor were great friends in real life. I'm happy to say that the chemistry between the two men is excellent, and their friendship results in a moving scene which provides a fitting end to the film.
Due to its great performances and gripping dramatisation of one of footballs most colourful characters, I would highly recommend The Damned United as a well made and entertaining piece of Cinema. Although some viewers may find the prospect of a film based solely on football to be slightly dull, the interesting characters and well written script make for a classy and watcheable movie, highly recommended.
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Michael Sheen ... Brian Clough
Timothy Spall ... Peter Taylor
Jim Broadbent ... Sam Longson
Colm Meaney ... Don Revie
Joseph Dempsie ... Duncan McKenzie
Brian McCardie ... Dave Mackay
Summary: Finally, a film about football that doesn't focus on hooligans