Anyway, the purpose of my intro, aside from a way of using the term “knob-head” 3 times (now 4) because it’s a great insult used too rarely at the moment, is to give you some context into how I approach this film. I have no interest in football, and subsequently no knowledge. If a “sport-movie” was to make a big deal about its sport in a big huffy serious manner then I’m not interested, unless it’s a crazy sport like, um, pig racing. I’d watch a film about that. Definitely. Otherwise, a “sport-movie” needs to have something else – character, perhaps – that’ll swing it.
So Damned United sweeps in with a vibrant character to take the lead – Brian Clough – a chap who took on Leeds United and was promptly sacked 44 days later. Brian is an arrogant son-of-a-gun, mouthing off to the media, two fingers to the stuffy club chairs, gaining startling success by bringing up naff Derby and then stonking failure with dirty Leeds. His pride and ambition drive him, sometimes bringing triumph, sometimes costing him more than just some points on the table. With a focus on Clough rather than the game, Damned United nicely avoids stuffy sport territory, the only footie shots featuring my favourite parts (dirty fouls…) and it even handily explains things VERY CLEARLY for those finding football leagues hard to follow.
Michael Sheen steps into Clough’s shoes with cheeky gusto, at times nailing him perfectly (I know this as they showed the real Clough at the end – handy) but other times slipping into a bit of a Frostier direction. His supporting cast are sturdy (Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent) and director Tom Hooper blends 70s grime into the screen for a nostalgic fuzzy glow. But for such a lively character the film at times felt flat, the crackle between Clough and rival manager Don Revie could have been electric, but instead felt a little subdued, and the overall impression was solid TV drama rather than engaging cinema fodder.
Though my perception may be marred by a lack of enthusiasm for the overall subject matter, and by the knob-heads in the cinema who decided to discuss the film through-out (and should have known better, being married adults) I still can’t get too excited about this. It wasn’t a flop by any means, and engaged enough on a non-sport level, but fails to gain anything more than a general recommended CF0.