Sunday, 14 October 2012

Review - The Damned United - (2009 - Dir. Tom Hooper)

The Clough family apparently loathe The Damned United in book and film form, and I started watching the film with some trepidation that the memory of Brian Clough may be in some way tarnished or sullied by Hooper's amalgamation of Yorkshire, football and grit. I needn't have worried as the film-makers clearly love Clough as much as the rest of us and treat him with a respect and reverence usually reserved for royalty. Admittedly this is a work of fiction and there's a great deal of artistic license used to pep up the story, but you get the feeling that the true story was possibly more outlandish than David Peace's novel could ever be. If they ever want to make a cricketing equivalent, Father of Doccortex would be an excellent lead character and would pep the story up with a whole host of half truths and rumours that would probably remove the need for a script writer altogether. It would have to be an 18 certificate though.

Anyway, the film is really enjoyable on every level. The plot is based on Brian Clough's 44 day reign as manager of 'dirty' Leeds and his apparent feud with then England manager Don Revie. Michael Sheen is immense as a vibrant, cocksure and charismatic Clough and is well supported by Colm Meaney as the dour, northern Don Revie and Timothy Spall as an understated Peter Taylor. All three provide faultless performances, but are almost upstaged by Jim Broadbent as the stereotypical, working class football club chairman as he struggles to cope with the success that Clough brings.

One criticism may be that the footballers in the film look nothing like footballers today, however in the seventies footballers were just regular blokes who smoked, drank and partied as much as the next man. The fact that Hooper portrays the Leeds team as a bunch of Neanderthals is less worrying than the fact that Billy Bremner is very much seen as a vindictive trouble maker in the dressing room. With no right to reply this seems a bit harsh on Mr. Bremner and was the only part of the film I didn't enjoy.

If I didn't like The Damned United there would have to be some changes in the natural order of the universe. It's gritty, it's from Yorkshire and it's about football. What more could you want? How about a great script, fantastic acting and plenty of humorous one liners?  It's even more enjoyable if you also have an intrinsic dislike for all things Leeds United and it could only be improved by a guest appearance by the trustworthy James Hayter as a ball boy.

If you like this you could also try:
The Red Riding Trilogy, Clough - The Brian Clough Story.


  1. Good review, I'll consider watching this. I thought Michael Sheen played Tony Blair The Damned United, I was mistaken, I must have got it mixed up with The Deal (2003)

    1. I'm guessing that you're not a Leeds fan then. (Cheers Doc for alienating any of our Leeds supporting readers out there.) If Timothy Spall is in it it must be watchable at least, so I might give it a go too.

  2. They do their own alienating in my experience. Worth a watch even if you're not a gritty northener.

    1. Slapping opposition keepers doesn't do them any favours either.