The Damned United (2009/Sony DVD)
C+ Sound: B- Extras: B- Film: B-
phenomenally popular as soccer is worldwide and not (enough?) in the United
States, the sport known to the rest of the world as football often makes for
either interesting films or film moments.
Tom Hopper’s The Damned United
(2009) is one of those better films, dealing with the wild years of the rise of
soccer manager Brian Clough as one of the greatest in the history of the game
and Leeds United franchise.
Sheen (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) proves once again to be one
of the greatest actors of his generation playing Clough uncompromisingly
throughout a well-penned film by ace screenwriter Peter Morgan (who also wrote
both Frost/Nixon and The Queen, plus Last King Of Scotland and is developing the next James Bond film)
by staying away from the usual linear narrative and creating a more involving
film as a result.
strategy implies comedy as the soccer audience likely known the tale all too
well and if you are a big fan (most viewers will be), it is a great approach to
a great piece of history. However, if
you are not as familiar as most non-U.S. viewers are likely to be, it will come
across differently. As a fan of British
film and TV, I got jokes out of it I would never have otherwise, but know some
of the soccer references flew by me, though I will laugh about them later when
I find out what they are about. That is
a non-commercial approach to doing the film, but it makes it the best film it
could possibly be.
Sheen are Colim Meaney (Frears’ The Van,
Layer Cake), Timothy Spall (Quadrophenia, Branagh’s Hamlet, The Harry Potter films), Jim
Broadbent (Vera Drake, Gangs Of New York) and a cast of
unknowns who are very good in the film.
It is certainly one of the better sports films of late and even if you
don’t; like sports films or known about soccer, it is worth seeing once just
for the fun of it.
enhanced 1.85 X 1 image was shot in 35mm film by Director of Photography Ben
Smithard and has been stylized to be a tad darker than you might expect to put
it in the past, but this strategy backfires a little with its stylized, soft
look that is less involving than it should be, though I wonder if the Blu-ray
(which we did not have as of this posting) looks better or not. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is better with a
good soundfield throughout, some good recording of the sound elements and good
use of music down to the Robert
include four fine behind the scenes featurettes and a feature length audio
commentary track by Hooper, Sheen and Producer Andy Harries.
- Nicholas Sheffo