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44 days in the Life of Brian
on 10 September 2009
I quite enjoyed this, not massively, but more than the pretty depressing and repetitive book to be honest. Michael Sheen played the young Brian Clough very well, the legendary manager for once biting off far more than he could chew in taking the reins at Revie's Leeds - a team that he openly detested and criticised whilst managing at Derby. It captured the era of big coats, boggy pitches, dodgy motors and ashtrays in changing rooms very well. The always watchable Timothy Spall's quiet portrayal of Peter Taylor added to the Mike Leigh atmosphere of the film in places. He was the innocent victim of Clough's arrogance when he resigned for both of them when the Derby chairman (played with aplomb by Jim Broadbent) wouldn't back his ambitions. For once Clough got it wrong and was more surprised than any when the resignation was accepted and rubber-stamped the same day.
Switching between Clough and Taylor's glory days at County and the fated 44 days at Leeds the contrast is startling but blatantly exaggerated. Derby are portrayed as artistes par excellence: Leeds as cynical bullies who battered them days before the European semi-final. The truth lies somewhere in-between and most true fans remember the Yorkshire side of that time as hard but extremely skilful (and successful). As I said in my review of the book, the film portrays Clough as a petty, drunken and foul-mouthed excuse for a man. Very little of his warmth, humour and intelligence is on show here.
Great performances from Sheen and Spall carry the film, which is lacking in substance somewhat but still one of the better footie movies in a pretty average genre anyway genre (apart from Escape to Victory obviously...). Fans of 70s football and the Big Match etc will enjoy this up to a point, but it is quite easy to see why the Clough family were against this project. It's not too long, not very sweet and somewhat nostalgic but sells Cloughie short in my opinion. (6/10)