The Damned United (Tom Hooper) 2009

The Damned United is about Brian Clough’s (Michael Sheen) 44 day manager’s job at Englands top football club Leeds United in 1974.  Why is this so important?  To put it in some kind of perspective, this would kind of like a manager taking a baseball team like the Royals to win the World Series, then going to the Yankees, burning all his bridges, bad mouthing not only his old club but the new one he was working for, and sending the Yankees to the worst losing streak in team history.  Amplify that by about 100 and you have some idea what this meant to soccer fans of the time.  Clough is an iconic figure in the face of world soccer.

This movie is not so much a look at soccer though (we get little game footage), this is more a look at the man.  This is a tragic and devastating look at a man who is brought down by his massive ego and grudge against the Leeds manager Don Revie.  Clough felt he was snubbed by Revie during one game which turned a pleasant rivalry into a Kirk/Kahn type bloodsport.  The interesting thing about Clough is that he did not win championships by himself.  He had a partnership with Peter Taylor who was kind of the brains behind the organization.  As he says in the movie, “You are the flash in the store window, and I’m the goods in the back.”  They really complimented each other and that was the reason they won so much.  Clough abandoned Taylor to take the job at Leeds to show up Revie and by the end he was a shell of a man.

This might still illicit a “so what” attitude from most people reading.  What really sells this movie is the acting by Michael Sheen who is quickly becoming one hell of a compelling actor.  He gives a near Shakespearean performance of a man who almost loses everything over a petty feud with an opposing manager.  This guy’s ego and attitude is charming in tv sound bytes but is a f*cking asshole behind closed doors.  When you really get to the end of his days at Leeds, I was thinking this was the most depressing ass movie of the year.  Clough becomes one sad bastard.  Thankfully he does learn from his mistakes and there is an attempt at turning his life around that makes you feel good.

The movie itself is nothing that spectacular.  The main reason to see this movie is the masterful performance by Michael Sheen.  He really carries the movie on his back and the other aspects of the movie don’t really shine as much as Sheen.

 

 

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