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.
"The Damned United" is a thoroughly entertaining movie about the early career of the legendary British football manager Brian Clough.It focuses mainly on his brief time as manager of Leeds United in 1974 following a successful few seasons as manager of unfashionable Derby County during which he won the League Championship for them.Clough never liked Leeds' style of football nor their manager Don Revie and publicly slated them in the media , making his decision to become their new boss following Revie's resignation a puzzling one. Clough's abrasive and disrespectful approach to the Leeds players alienated him from them even further and when results went against him early on in the 1974-1975 season, the writing was on the wall for Clough and he was duly sacked."The Damned United" chronicles this whole period.The remarkable Michael Sheen acts Brian Clough superbly in this film and he is ably supported by Timothy Spall who plays his sidekick Peter Taylor and Colm Meaney as his nemesis Don Revie. The acting is excellent throughout and the whole period is portrayed convincingly well."The Damned United" is one of the best films about football that I have seen.
on 14 January 2010
It's a real shame that top-notch performances from Michael Sheen (as Clough) and Colm Meaney (as Revie) are so deeply undermined by a script full of missed opportunities and jarring inaccuracy.
This film's crime isn't so much that it makes things up - lots of classic bio-pics have done that - it's that it ignores truths that are far more compelling and dramatic than the fabrications.
One of the worst offenders for me is the injured players splayed out on the floor outside the dressing room after Derby's brutal encounter with Leeds. It followed scenes of players being stretchered off with blood pouring from open wounds and resembled some sort of bizarre spoof of a war movie rather than a football match. It's then implied that Derby suffered an early exit from the European Cup days later because the team was so depleted by injuries. But the European game in question happened weeks after the Leeds match and Derby fielded a full-strength team.
The real life events surrounding Derby's exit from the European Cup against Juventus were in reality far more dramatic.
In the film Clough blames Revie, Leeds and the shortcomings of his chairman, Sam Longston, for defeat. Whereas in real life he blamed corrupt match officials - or as he famously told the Italian press after the game: "I don't speak to cheating bastards." He then went off on one about Italy's military record in World War Two. Pure Clough! (And of course history proved him kind of right - Juventus were later proven to be habitual match-fixers and the referee was later found guilty of taking bribes.)
The worst travesty of all though is the depiction of the TV debate between Clough and Revie at the end of the film. It has Revie putting his nemisis firmly in his place and makes Clough out to be a broken man. This is pretty much the opposite of what really happened.
Buy the DVD of ITV's excellent "CLOUGH" documentary. The entire Clough/ Revie TV debate is on the additional features. It's half an hour of sustained verbal combat between two men who loathe each other - and Clough destroys Revie. Watch the real thing and it makes you wonder how a feature film can fail to recapture an ounce of the real-life drama.
This film makes Clough look like pompous twerp who's constantly out of his depth and hell-bent on self destruction.
The real Clough was far more complex and far more fascinating.
No wonder the Clough family are upset.
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!!!)
on 3 August 2012
The copy accompanying this film on it's release tried to suggest you didn't need to be a sports fan to appreciate it. I am not convinced of that. An unhealthy appreciation of mid-70s football and an awareness of Mr. Clough ought, I would have thought, to be a pre-requisite. The story isn't sustaining enough for someone disinterested in those aspects.
Sheen plays Clough as well as he played Tony Blair and David Frost in prior movies. Clough was a very mannered man, so it couldn't have been that arduous for Sheen, but he manages to convey the unshakeable self-belief that Cloughie had and his massively sized ego. The John Motson style sheepskin coats and the overweight, cigar-smoking chairmen were all a little too obvious but I guess that was how it really was. Unlike Jonathan Coe's Rotters Club, which is set in exactly the same period, there are no references or influences from the wider political or economic times.
The tale is pretty true to the history. The rivalry between Clough when he was the Derby County manager and Don Revie, the all-conquering Leeds United Manager is well documented and this comes across strongly. Little was made of Clough's relationship with the bottle which ultimately cut short his life, but generally speaking it was a fair representation of what happened, at least as far as I remember. So Leeds fired him after 44 days, but the last laugh was on them as Clough went on to manage Nottingham Forest to back-to-back wins in the European Cup (as it was then) in 1980 and 1981, something not emulated by another British club to this day. Revie ended up washed out, having failed at managing England and then a stint in the Middle East. Leeds briefly recaptured the glory in the early nineties but then faded dramatically.
Some capital is made out of Clough's dependence on his number two, Peter Taylor, with whom he enjoyed success at Hartlepool and Derby. Taylor stuck to his principles having been offered a role at Brighton just before Leeds came a-calling. There is a scene where Sheen gets on bended knee to Taylor (Timothy Spall) to beg him to reunite with him. It could have been touching, but Sheen plays Clough's insincerity pretty well. Clough is actually only out for number one. Unfortunately Spall is pretty unconvincing as Taylor, in my opinion. Not his finest hour.
However the film did remind me of one of the great all-time sporting lines: when asked whether he felt he was the best manager in the league, Clough replies that he isn't sure but he is certainly in the top One. He might have been the best manager England never had and he certainly would have made press conferences a little bit more lively than we have had with the likes of Mcclaren and Capello.
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.
on 26 September 2009
Often audiences are assumed to be incapable of appreciating the complexities of a true situation and are instead fed a watered-down version. This is the case in the Damned United.
It is true that Leeds brought Italian style tactics to the English league - systematic fouling, time-wasting, diving. Those tactics plus the talents of excellent players and, as the film suggests a coaching set-up ahead of its time, brought Leeds a level of consistency for a decade that was astonishing at the time. In the 1973-4 season, however, the season before Clough took over, Leeds transformed themselves. They ditched the negative tactics and went out to play entertaining football. With the best players, they easily won the League, suggesting that the emphasis on negativity in preceding seasons had actually held Leeds back rather than helped them.
Also omitted from the film, in order not to distract the viewer with complexity, are the accusations of bribery of football match officials by Italian clubs. I won't go into the details - look elsewhere - but many people felt that the officials favoured Juventus in the two-legged tie in 1973. (It is now a matter of record that Clough's Forest were robbed of a UEFA Cup final by bribe officials in 1984). The irony, not mentioned, is that Leeds were similarly abused by officials over many years. In particular Leeds fans remember the 1973 Cup-Winners Cup final, where AC Milan had clearly bribed the referee, and the 1975 European Cup final vs Bayern. Watch clips on YouTube. The violence at the latter game was the result of frustration with refereeing decisions over many years.
The makers of the film clearly were not around in 1972. In the film, Clough makes a comment when he first arrives at Leeds, a comment that went down badly with the Leeds players. He talks about having been in Majorca. This was not a reference to where he was, when Leeds contacted him. It was a reference to where he was reported to have been (but actually was not) in 1972, when Derby won the League and Leeds did not. At that time the teams did not complete their fixtures on the same day. Derby had already completed their fixtures and had gone on a team holiday to Majorca, when Leeds lost to Wolves, giving Derby the League. Also notable are accusations by Wolves players that they had been offered money to throw the game and hand Leeds the League.
Also omiited is the fact that Mackay led Derby to another League Championship and to beat Real Madrid 4-1 at the Baseball Ground (even if they lost the return 5-1).
I think the fundamental problem with the film is that it shouldn't have been made. There are two great stories on either side of the story told: the rise of unfashionable Leeds in the 1960s under Revie before Clough took over and the rise of unfashionable Nottingham Forest under Clough after Clough had left Leeds. These are the real stories worth telling.
The worst thing about this film is that it makes Clough look like an untalented wanker. Clough may have needed Taylor (although Forest remained at the top of English football for a decade after Taylor left), but Clough also brought a unique ability to motivate players, albeit in a very different era from today. For instance, to get the performance of a lifetime from Larry Lloyd, Clough described him as the only man to win two England caps on the same day - his first and his last. By being so unpredictable, Clough kept his players on their toes, even after they had won. He also lifted them in defeat and gave them the belief that they could match and beat the best in Europe. None of this comes out in the film.
Having said all that, I have to compliment the main actors on their performances. Sheen as Clough is only bettered by Colm Meaney as Revie. I wasn't sure when meaney wa son screen and when the editors had cut in clippage of the real man. Jim Broadbent is as impressive as ever as the Derby chairman.
on 28 September 2009
If you loved football in the seventies, then you will love this, the seventies was the best time for football and this film brings you back to that time. Being a Derby fan, I can relate to events, the film brings it all back, as if it happened yesterday. Clough is played by a great actor, he mirrors the great man.
Its funny, sad and as it was, a film well worth buying.
on 26 April 2009
Totally awsome. Best film i've seen in a while, a must buy for any clough fans. Sheen captures the clough aura immediately with clough like whit and humor. this is definately a 10 out of 10