movie film review | chris tookey

Damned United

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  Damned United Review
Tookey's Rating
8 /10
Average Rating
7.38 /10
Michael Sheen , Timothy Spall , Jim Broadbent
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Directed by: Tom Hooper
Written by: Peter Morgan , based on the novel by David Peace

Released: 2009
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: UK
Length: 93

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This affectionate film is nowhere near as dark as Peace's novel. Instead it is a crowd-pleaser. So start cheering because The Damned United is the first great football movie and it's going to be bigger than Clough's head.
(The Sneak, Sun)
What takes everyone by embarrassed surprise — notably Clough’s family, who have famously cold-shouldered the film — is that The Damned United is an improbable northern love story. For all the clever ways it rolls back our yesterdays, the film hinges on Clough’s surprisingly tender relationship with the only man who had a genuinely selfless interest in his career — his coach Peter Taylor (played with labrador loyalty by Timothy Spall). For this simple reason the film is probably not everyone’s romantic cup of tea. Ultimately The Damned United celebrates Clough as a tragic clown who ditched his best friend rather than as an heroic maverick. But anyone who has ever kicked a leather football in anger — when they were brown, permanently sodden and weighed 10lb — will almost certainly love this.
(James Christopher, Times)
Wisely, Tom Hooper, the director, keeps the football action down to a minimum and focuses on a bravura performance from Michael Sheen, who, after his interpretations of Tony Blair and Sir David Frost, is superb as the charismatic Clough. It is a warm, engaging portrait of a great British maverick, and if your appetite for corduroy trousers, bad haircuts and Ford Capris has not been sated by the Red Riding trilogy on television, this evocation of early Seventies England provides another feast of nostalgia. Men of a certain age will watch it and look back fondly on the days when players kicked lumps out of each other on boggy pitches while hooligans threw bricks at each other in the stands. The pedigree of the film deserves to take it beyond a narrow sporting audience, given that it is written by Peter Morgan, who provided the screeplays for The Queen and Frost/Nixon, and boasts a fine cast in Sheen, Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent and Colm Meaney, who is uncannily true to Revie. There are quibbles. One of the strengths of the book, the interweaving of Clough’s time at Derby and Leeds, can make the film a little jerky. And it is hard not to laugh every time we see Stephen Graham as Billy Bremner, the fiery captain who was at loggerheads with Clough for every one of his 44 days. The costume department appears to have dressed him in one of those “see you Jimmy” wigs. Far better a good actor with no sporting genes than the other way round, but couldn’t he have shed a few pounds? There are a few scenes where it is all a little made for television but these are minor glitches and when someone draws up the next list of top sporting films, The Damned United may just rank as one of the best ever made about football; not that the producers would appreciate the accolade. To acclaim it as the best is to ask what would come second — and what self-respecting film wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Escape to Victory? Rest assured, The Damned United is in a whole different league from that.
(Matt Dickinson, Times Online)
Steeped in nostalgia and blessed with an endearing performance from Michael Sheen as the so-called 'greatest England manager we never had', this valentine to the former darling of Nottingham Forest shoots and scores on many levels... The Damned United is an enthralling and largely affectionate tribute to a man who wears egotistical bravado like a comfortable, old jumper... Morgan's script elegantly navigates the timeframes, providing us with background to the rivalry that drives Brian to the brink of self-destruction. Sheen's rapport with Spall galvanises the picture, with an amusing emotional pay-off in the closing minutes when Clough has to grovel for Peter's forgiveness after a spat.
(Damon Smith, Scotsman)
There's a droll, topical moment in the LP released in 1975 to accompany the release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Eddie Waring, played by Michael Palin, claims that its supporting B-feature in cinemas is called Bring Me the Head of Don Revie. That would make a nice alternative title for this undemanding but richly enjoyable, expertly constructed and effortlessly acted film, starring Michael Sheen giving what I think is the best performance of his big-screen career, in a real-life role much juicier and meatier than Tony Blair, David Frost or Kenneth Williams... Sheen gives a cracking performance as Clough: resplendent but lonely in what he famously called the "top one" of great managers. A two-tone streak of cruelty and fun makes this a great role for him. With motormouth insolence, fearless cheek and whoops of nasal scorn, Sheen's Clough keeps both players and directors in line, but finds that his arrogant swagger can turn destructively in on himself... Admirers of David Peace's "Yorkshire noir" literary work might be surprised by how relatively softcore The Damned United has turned out. But this is a fresh, intelligent transformation, terrifically involving all the way through; it has responded to the human drama and found a persuasive anti-hero in Clough. His story has been recreated as mainstream entertainment with tremendous watchability and flair.
(Peter Bradshaw, Guardian)
Altogether lighter than Peace's novel, The Damned United is an entertaining and perceptive film that cuts between Clough's struggles at Leeds and flashbacks to his time at Derby. It contrasts the insecure, bouncy, aggressive Clough (a further addition to Sheen's gallery of edgy, ambitious, self-doubting heroes that includes Blair and Frost) and the confident, diplomatic, bear-like, unprincipled Revie impressively embodied by Colm Meaney. Jim Broadbent and Henry Goodman are also very good as the contrasted chairmen, the bluff, self-made haulier Sam Longson at Derby, the suave Jewish businessman Manny Cussins at Leeds. Though there's little physical resemblance between them, Timothy Spall seems to capture the honesty, reserve and devotion of Peter Taylor, a man of real probity. The relationship between Clough and Taylor provides the film with its love story, though their mutual reliance is about as homoerotic as that between Abbott and Costello. The film's precise sense of period and cultural nuance is seen in Clough glorying in his silver Mercedes-Benz saloon and Taylor driving a green Morris Traveller. Tom Hooper, whose outstanding TV work includes the John Adams mini-series and the excellent Longford, makes a confident big-screen debut with a film that asserts the proud independence of provincial life. But it's a small-scale chamber work that lacks the ambition, force and visual memorability of such comparable sporting movies as Chariots of Fire, Raging Bull, Eight Men Out or Cobb.
(Phlip French, Observer)

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