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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Comedy > Soccer > British > The Damned United (2009/Sony DVD)

The Damned United (2009/Sony DVD)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-

 

 

As 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.

 

Michael 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.

 

The 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.

 

Joining 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.

 

The anamorphically 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 Lane score.

 

Extras include four fine behind the scenes featurettes and a feature length audio commentary track by Hooper, Sheen and Producer Andy Harries.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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