From the Academy Award-nominated writer of The Queen and Frost/Nixon, The Damned United is based on the incredible true story of Brian Clough, one of England’s greatest soccer managers and his 44 controversial days at the helm of reigning champs Leeds United. Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and Twilight Saga: New Moon) triumphs as Clough starring alongside a winning ensemble cast that includes Timothy Spall (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), Colm Meaney (Layer Cake) and Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince). This inspiring and humorous sports drama is about the power of friendship in the face of adversity and the stubborn will of one man to play by his own rules.
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