Based on the best-selling book of the same name, The Damned United
is the story of one of Britain’s finest ever football managers, Brian Clough, and his curtailed 44-day reign at the helm of Leeds United. It turns out it’s also the tale of his formative years at Derby County, the story of his rivalry with previous Leeds United boss Don Revie, and ultimately, the exploration of his relationship with his assistant, Peter Taylor.
The film explores the story by moving backwards and forwards in time, but always at the heart of The Damned United is its trump card. Michael Sheen has already richly deserved an abundance of plaudits in his acting career, not least for his superb portrayal of David Frost in Frost/Nixon, and he carves out another terrific performance here. Taking on the challenge of playing the larger than life Clough, his work here is tremendous, and the highlight of an already-strong cast that also features Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney.
On the screen, the story of The Damned United is actually distilled into quite a straightforward tale, albeit one considerably enhanced by its aforementioned cast. It wisely keeps its running time trimmed, and while you can’t help but suspect that there’s much to the story that’s not explored here, it’s a good, solid telling of a quite extraordinary tale. Sheen won’t, of course, attract Oscar-attention for such a resoundingly British role, but surely his time, on this latest piece of evidence, will come. --Jon Foster
Michael Sheen stars in this dramatisation of Brian Clough's disastrous 44-day stint as the coach of Leeds United, based on the acclaimed novel by David Peace. From the outset, Clough (Sheen) does little to disguise his contempt for the club, its players, and former club manager Don Revie (Colm Meaney). As the relationship between players and manager deteriorates, so do the team's performances on the pitch, leading to Clough's dismissal by the Leeds directors. Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent co-star.