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 The Damned United

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: The Damned United   Sat Mar 28, 2009 6:53 pm

Michael Sheen and writer Peter Morgan have had a very successful working relationship so far. They first worked together on The Deal in 2003, which had Sheen as Tony Blair and David Morrissey as Gordon Brown, and it was directed by Stephen Frears. It won acclaim and a BAFTA. Sheen returned to play Blair for Morgan and Frears in The Queen (2006), which won Helen Mirren an Oscar for her part as Elizabeth II, and more acclaim. Since then, Morgan worked on the likes of The Last King of Scotland (2006), The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) and Channel 4's Longford, Sheen appeared in the Underworld films and played two more real-life figures in 2006, H. G. Wells and Kenneth Williams, which won him more acclaim. Sheen and Morgan reunited for the play Frost/Nixon, which had Sheen as David Frost, in a reconstruction of the Nixon interviews of 1977, a film version was made by Ron Howard in 2008, to great acclaim and Oscar nominations to it's name. (Non sadly for Sheen). But, now they're back together again, taking on another real life figure, football manager Brian Clough, not the most cinematic of subjects, but he was such a character that a film about him was bound to happen. It focuses on a dark patch of the great managers life, but it Sheen, Morgan and director Tom Hooper help make The Damned United a watchable and enjoyable experience, with Sheen weaving his brilliant mimicry with another national institution... Very Happy

Based on David Peace's controversial book, it begins in July 1974 with Leeds United boss Don Revie (Colm Meaney), leaving the club he's been with for 13 years to manage England. The post was now vacant, and who better to take it than Brian Clough (Sheen), who had been manager of Derby County since 1967. Even before Clough goes to meet his bosses, he makes a detour to Yorkshire Television to talk on the news about being appointed manager, much to the ire of the the board at Leeds. Clough is very much a public figure, and that's the way he likes it. Clough also makes no secret that he hates Leeds and he hates Don Revie too. The film cuts back and forth between 1968 and onwards, when Clough was manager of Derby, and was able to help make them successful, with the help of his friend and assistant manager Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall), signing up Dave Mackay (Brian McCardie) turned the failing teams fortunes around, however this isn't good news for Derby's chairman 'Uncle' Sam Longson (Jim Broadbent). Clough and Longson clash horns with one another, but there's an even bigger rivalry between Clough and Revie, as Revie refused to acknowledge Clough when he and his team came play against Derby. At Leeds, Clough and the players never got on, they still pined for Revie. Leeds Captain Billy Bremner (Stephen Graham) was sent off for a clash with Kevin Keegan when Leeds played Liverpool United at a Charity Shield match, which hurt the team's winning streak. Clough lasted only 44 days in the job, with only one win out of 5 games. Ouch. :sad:

Now, films about football tend to vary in quality, there are the likes of Escape to Victory (1981), which placed Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine and Max Von Sydow amongst the likes of Pelé, Bobby Moore and John Wark, or even the Goal! films, or the Vinnie Jones remake of Mean Machine (2001), or even the Sean Bean one, When Saturday Comes (1996). Some are good and some are bad. The Damned United doesn't focus on the football action, it focuses mostly on went on behind the scenes, the power struggles between Clough and his peers, (something writer Morgan is very good at doing.) But, it's very tight, and it's focused as well. Although it does get a bit confusing at times when it jumps back and forth between Clough's times at Derby County and Leeds. But, it makes for an enjoyable 97 minutes, it's a good look back on the days when football didn't have overpaid players, (although the film suggests Clough may have been an architect of things to come.) Plus, the pitches soon turned into bogs, and as Clough tidies up the visitors changing rooms at Derby, he lays out a towel, an orange and an ashtray. Yep, even the finest players smoked like chimneys back then. Razz

It's a very well made film, low-budget and proud of it. Sheen excels as Ol' Big Head, he's got a knack of getting under the skins of real life people, and not only getting their voices down, but their mannerisms and personalities, while at the same time adding humanity to them. Clough is another achievement for Sheen, an imcomparable and loveable football personality with a big mouth, whose quotes included "I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one." The supporting cast play a great second fiddle to Sheen, Timothy Spall's Peter Taylor turns the film into a sort of warm buddy picture, he was Clough's right hand man, a sort of good luck charm. When Taylor refused to go to Leeds with Clough, it would appear all the good luck vanished. Jim Broadbent makes a welcome appearance as Sam Longson, and Colm Meaney makes a very good Don Revie, who Clough so despised. It's well made by Tom Hooper, (who directed Morgan's Longford, which Broadbent was in), it captures a dark chapter in Clough's life, but it makes for compelling viewing. Even those who don't like football will be engaged by the good performances here.



The Damned United is a very good portrait of one of the best personalities in British football, Sheen's Clough is an uncomprimising character, someone who wants it all, much to the chagrin of his superiors. But, it makes a compelling viewing, the book caused controversy amongst Clough's family, but the film version downplays any darkness to Clough's personality. He's shown as a family man, (although it's fleeting), and good leader, expect when it comes to managing Leeds United. Whether it was just a difference of opinion on part of Clough or the players, it was a bad time in Clough's life. But, it does build up to a showdown on the news between Clough and Revie, on the day Clough was sacked from Leeds. It is then that Clough realises he is his own worst enemy. The book was a collection of episodes, with no real story so to speak, a challenge for Morgan and Hooper, but they are able to make something from it, and it is a football film that doesn't focus on the football, it focuses on one of the sport's best figures, which the end credits call "the best manger England never had".
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PostSubject: Re: The Damned United   Sun Aug 30, 2009 1:23 pm

The film is out on DVD this Monday. But, the film is opening in America on October 9th, this is how they've promoted it to a country clueless about football, (or Soccer, as they call it... Razz)



U.S. Trailer
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