Don Revie and Brian Clough were great footballers and great managers, both from Middlesbrough (about 10 miles north of where I grew up) but the film sets them up as tragic enemies in a reputational boxing match in which stinging blow after blow is landed by each to the benefit of neither. David Pearce's novel has Clough as the admirer of Revie who turns against his hero. They battle it out at key points of Clough's early career at Derby County, and at his short career at Leeds itself, and finish it off on TV. Revie leaves for disappointment at England, Clough to be reborn at Nottingham Forest, neither are ever the same again.
Michael Sheen is scary as Clough, Colm Meaney brilliant as Revie, both sound like their counterparts and even begin to look like the originals. The Leeds squad is recognisable even to me at this remove; and so is the pre-Thatcher world of self-made men running British sport with all the witless charm that they ran their businesses. The attitudes, the accents, the fashions and the locations are spot on; yet this is not a sports film, you see very little soccer, it's an old fashioned tragedy about rivalry and hubris, about genius and the deadening effect of the mediocre types who seem to run sport (as they run life). The cast are brilliant and the result a great tale.
This (in)famous sequence in which Leeds United chairman Manny Cousins puts this question to the (about to be) sacked manager Brian Howard Clough (in response to Clough's compensation pay demands) is just one of many golden moments in Tom Hooper's masterly 2009 depiction of the life and career of the best manager England never had. Indeed, although it undoubtedly helps, I don't think you actually need to be a 'football saddo' (like me) who is always thrilled to stumble upon an early Sunday morning showing on ITV4 of the Big Match from the 1970s (the period when I actually was a football fan), to appreciate the brilliance of Hooper's film, and of Peter Morgan's screenplay (making it, for me, up with the likes of The Hustler, This Sporting Life, Eight Men Out, etc as one of the finest ever sporting screen depictions).
Of course, in the role as the Middlesbrough lad we have an astonishing and uncanny performance from the great Michael Sheen - his other 'film impersonations' have been impressive (David Frost, Bliar, etc), but none gets anywhere near his Clough - it really is as if he inhabits the role. Not to be outdone, The Damned United also features another remarkably life-like performance with Colm Meaney doing a great (and typically dour) Don Revie, the Leeds United manager whose job Clough had inherited for his 44 days in the role (as Revie went on to manage England), and with whom Clough had a publicly vindictive relationship (which in the film is portrayed as stemming from an incident where celebrated Leeds manager Revie had snubbed Clough's offered handshake whilst the latter was languishing in the lower divisions managing the (soon to be big) Derby County).
However, The Damned United is not only an impressive display of consummate acting - for example, we also have Timothy Spall, typically superb and down-to-earth as Clough's managerial sidekick, Peter Taylor, the great Jim Broadbent as Clough's chairman at Derby County, Sam Longson ('Colin Todd - a salary of £300 a week, you can't pay a footballer that'), Maurice Roëves excellent as the hard-bitten Scottish ex-miner and Leeds coach Jimmy Gordon, Stephen Graham suitably antagonistic as Billy Bremner, and (the one negative) Peter McDonald as the unconvincing (well, he's about a foot too tall, for a start) Johnny Giles - but is also a cleverly constructed, shot and edited piece of work, as it dovetails Clough's later period at Leeds, with his earlier aspirational time at Derby, thereby explaining his confrontational attitude on arriving at Leeds (whose initial training session at Elland Road is cinematic magic, as he lambasts the Leeds players for their past intimidatory approach 'You've never won any of them fairly, you've done it all by bloody cheating...'). The film's concluding sequence to the tune of Bowie's Queen Bitch in which we learn of the future trajectories of Clough and Revie's careers is also exhilarating and magical.
As you have probably guessed, I am rather a fan of The Damned United, both this film and David Peace's book on which it is based (and which paints Clough in a more negative personal light than does the film), and whilst I am sure I would be preaching to the converted in relation to anyone who has a nostalgic interest in this sporting episode, I do honestly believe that Hooper's (and Morgan's) tale should appeal to anyone interested in what is a compelling story of (variously thwarted and fulfilled) human ambition and tragedy - even my other half loves it, and she hates football!
on 3 September 2009
Brilliant film and Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall play there parts amazingly well. Sheen has proved here what a world-class actor he is in playing 'old big head' Brian Clough.
The only negative is some of the deleted scenes, especially the one when he comes in at half time and makes the players drink a bottle of brandy after a shocking first half against Leeds Utd. It just goes straight to Clough in his office which to any non football fan will make no sense at all as we are used to seeing managers in the dugout. Little things like that take the shine of it a little but there is no doubt its got a good plot with fantastic actors who pull off there roles exceptionally well.
Michael Sheen for the next James Bond??? Stranger things have happened (Derby County winning the first division for one!!!)
A look at Brian Clough's 44-day reign as the coach of Leeds United.
The Damned United is an adaptation from David Peace's 2006 novel of the same name, a novel that although hugely popular and garnered critical acclaim, was altered in certain events so as to avoid libel issues from players and Clough's family alike. With that knowledge in mind, Tom Hooper's film about the battered mind of Brian Clough (Michael Sheen practically getting it down pat) during his 44 days in charge of Leeds United in 1974 (after inheriting the job from his hugely successful nemesis, Don Revie), has to be taken with a little pinch of salt. But that doesn't make this a bad film, because somewhat surprisingly, it's a very good one, in fact it's one of the better sports movies to have come out of Britain for some time.
Hooper and screenwriter Peter Morgan have wisely kept the on pitch action to a minimum, this is after all about a football man, not a film about football. Weaving the story of Clough's rise up the management ladder with his success at Derby County-with his egotistical and revenge fuelled tenure as Leeds boss-works a treat. It's a nice way to format the story, as is the fact that the film is told from the perspective of Cloughie himself. We are left in no doubt about what drives Clough on, and it's very refreshing that the special relationship that Clough had with his assistant Peter Taylor (imothy Spall) is formed and is obviously crucial to the story. However, if hampered with legal constraints or merely not enough time to cram it all in? Hooper's picture doesn't quite win the match outright as regards Cloughie's mania and fears. But he was such a much loved figure was Brian, and just maybe this film has gone as far as it should? We are left in no doubt that Clough had problems, and the film doesn't shy away from that fact, but he was also a very talented and successful manager. So it be that the film is not as biting as the novel apparently is, but that is no bad thing in the context of the Brian Clough story.
Engrosing from the first whistle to the one that brings full time. 8/10
I used to live not far from where Brian Clough was born, and never did see him play for Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park since he had already moved to Sunderland by the time I started supporting Middlesbrough.
During the 1960s I used to watch that great Leeds side play often at Elland Road, Newcastle and Sunderland too when they played away. So, watching this remarkable film did bring back a few memories. However, although I do think it is a very good film about football as it was in those far off days, this film does not really explore entirely the difficulties Brian Clough had with the Leeds players during those 44 days when he was in charge. It may well be that the whole truth has never really emerged and perhaps the writer might have thought against providing too much speculation about what really went on behind the scenes taking into account that many of those players at Leeds are still around today.
It does explore Clough's arrogance though, and his lack of respect to the Leeds players and also to his arch enemy Don Revie who had laid down the foundation for the success and failures that Leeds United endured during those ten years from 1964 until 1974 when Clough took over the reins of management.
Michael Sheen as Clough and Timothy Spall as his side kick Peter Taylor are both superb in their respective roles. Their rapport is apparant throughout and both stole all the scenes in which they appeared together. Sheen of course, does come across as Clough, getting his mannerism right and also his dialect. Both actors are a joy to watch. Mention must be made of Irish actor Colm Meany (Star Trek Deep Space 9) who portrays Don Revie superbly
A great film to watch about football, but you need to overlook its weaknesses though.
As for the Blu-Ray discs, its superb. Picture detail and soundtrack are both very good indeed. Also numerous extras abound which are interesting.
on 8 September 2009
The Damned United is a well delivered and an excellent portrayal movie about football set in the 1960's to the 1970's. The movie was completely rented out on the weekend. Even returning on Monday, there were only 6 copied available in the selves. This proves football is a very popular sport in this country.
The subject matter of Damned United is about Brian Clough's managerial career at Derby Country and Leeds. He was remembered as a dynamic, outspoken and controversial figure to embrace English football. The movie looks at Brian as a person and manager. He was an over-ambitious manager, who wanted to do well for club, but it did not go well with the board and players, but it achieved results. The movie unfolds drama on and off the field. The area of professional football is nicely captured in the movie with the typical 1960's and 1970's settings. It adds realism to the movie.
Michael Sheen offers a superb performance as the outspoken Brian Clough, but maybe misunderstood. The Damned United is one best movie made about football ever made. I like the way it has shown real coverage of Brian Clough into the movie. This makes the movie feel real as if the events are occurring. The movie provides elements of drama and entertainment for viewers. It is real treat for football fans, as Brian Clough represents one of the greatest club managers. It is an interesting account and hugely absorbing with quality acting and great settings.
on 7 February 2010
Football films that attempt to seriously tackle the personalities involved are few and far between, which makes The Damned United all the more worthwhile as a piece of fiction and social history. The lead actors are all on superb form and Michael Sheen's performance as Brian Clough is particularly revealing. Check out the remarkable deleted scenes and you will find a film that could/should have been even more controversial and groundbreaking. Clough's loathing of Don Revie manifesting itself in a scene where Brian destroys Don's desk with a chopper and then sets light to it in front of the gobsmacked Leeds directors. Clough sacking a long-serving female secretary at Elland Road, whose only 'crime' has been to work for Don Revie. Clough appointing former Derby County players to the Leeds squad and then demanding that they be his undercover eyes and ears in the dressing room. These and other deleted scenes point to Clough's egotistical personality reaching manic proportions at this stage in his career. He was a brilliant football manager but as a personality it seems he was seriously flawed. If only the film-makers had had the courage to include those deleted scenes and so crank up the mania to the max. That said, The Damned United is a fine film which will hopefully open the way to others of a similar nature. The rise and fall of George Best is another fertile subject begging to be given a no-holds-barred cinematic treatment.
on 3 June 2012
I don't mind football, but I doubt I could watch a movie containing lot of it, which is probably why I enjoyed The Damned United. It charts Brian Clough's ill-fated move from Derby to Leeds where he comes uncharacteristically unstuck in his managerial attempts.
Martin Sheen is (as always) brilliant at playing the self appointed `greatest manager in England' and he's backed up by the equally excellent Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent.
You don't have to love, or even know much about, football to like this film. It's about someone who isn't quite as clever as he thinks he is. Therefore you can't help but take a little bit of evil delight in his fall from grace. However, although Clough isn't always the genius he believes himself to be, he's never far from it. So, even when he's down, you know he won't be there for long.
Good British drama - very entertaining.
on 1 November 2009
Those of us of a certain age will remember Brian Clough; his arrogance, his conceit; his brilliance. It has become a cliche, but nonetheless true, he was the best manager England never had. This film captures that magic perfectly.
Michael Sheen plays the part extremely well and is always believable as the main character but it is perhaps in the casting of the supporting players that the whole era is recreated so realistically. With the exception of Timothy Spall (a fine performance but he looks nothing like Graham Taylor) the rest of the cast make you believe you are there, at Elland Road or the Baseball Ground, all those years ago.
I've watched the DVD three times now and each time I have seen a facet of this incredibly complex man that I didn't notice on my previous viewing. You don't have to be a football fan to enjoy the film, but if you are you will be totally captivated.
on 8 September 2015
One of the best films, maybe the best, about football. A portray of a maverick individual who challenges an entire world with his idea of strategy and mentality, and the portray of an environment with its values and resistance to big changes. All conducted with a mix of irony and serious approach to the matter, in pure english style. Michael Sheen is at the same time mysterious and straightforward, committed, engaging but unwilling to captivate people's liking, in a constant struggle between facts and truth, ready to go on his way no matter what. His assistant is also a key role (Timothy Spall in his best peformance ever) and Broadbent, Meaney and Graham are brilliant too.
Written by the guy who brought us the 1974 trilogy, and presented on an excellent blu ray, this film is a must have if you lke football and even if you do not care much. You may end up loving it.