Starring: Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Stephen Graham
Director: Tom Hooper
Running Time: 98 mins
The Damned United is a British film that follows the peak of historic manager Brian Clough’s career, from the euphoria of Derby County’s ascent to the top of Division One under his management, to the difficulties of the self-centred manager’s takeover at Leeds.
Not only is this a fascinating story from a footballing point of view, but is a brilliant character study of a controversial and deeply enigmatic man that grabs you right from the start.
Nor is this any of your generic Hollywood sports drama. There are no cheesy inspirational speeches, and no soft romances between random characters like in your average American football story, but is a gritty, realistic and dark comedy that has no cheese in it whatsoever.
If you take anything away from what I say about this film, remember that you shouldn’t shy away from this fantastic film even if you’re not interested in football. Yes, the whole story is based around the sport, and you may take more away from it with some more knowledge of the game, but the main core of the story has much less to do with football.
And that main core is how the story follows the nature and character of Brian Clough. On the one hand, he’s an incredibly determined and ambitious man who you can’t help cheering on, but he’s also a very self-centred, very arrogant and very stubborn character, and the representation of both sides of his personality not only makes him more intriguing, but also more real.
Michael Sheen’s performance is also excellent. With a combination of subtly obvious facial expressions and a very loud persona, you really do get a good idea of what the man was like, from his overwhelming arrogance to his few weak points which show he is human.
Moving away from the main character, the story is fascinating to watch. Whether you know the history or not of football from the 70s, it’s still an intriguing tale of the ups and downs of one of the most iconic periods of the most iconic sport, and there’s nothing you can do to avoid being fascinated by it, and that’s why it gets a 7.9.