The Damned United

I loved this film! I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, I only knew it was a true story about a soccer coach and is 44 days with Leeds United. When it comes to Italian soccer, I know names and a bit of history, but I know pretty much nothing like that when it comes to English soccer, so this story was new to me. I am sure I’ve heard Brian Clough’s name before this film, but I had no idea about what he did. This is kind of a bio-pic about him, going back and forth between his time with Leeds and his time with Derby. At the core is the partnership and relationship between Clough (played by the excellent Michael Sheen) and Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall, amazing in this role).
The story here starts off with Clough going to the Leeds club, and we see their former coach Don Revie (A fantastic Colm Meaney) has left the team for the national team. But just how did Clough get the gig of coaching the top team? We see his rise at Derby with Taylor, as ego’s grow with the teams massive success. Clough does not get along with the Leeds team, trying to do things his way is not what the players want. His time there it seemed his ego had gotten the better of him and a falling out with Taylor is obvious since he isn’t there at Leeds with him. It is really fascinating to see this all unfold, it was almost like a history lesson with English football.
Clough the film character is likable, I really enjoyed Michael Sheen’s performance. There was a lot of passion and emotion behind it. The same can be said for Timothy Spall, he was fantastic as Taylor (even if the physical resemblance wasn’t there). Maybe it is just me, but I do think these two men are fantastic actors, and the chemistry between them was electric. Because their partnership and relationship are so important to the story, if the two actors didn’t have the right chemistry between them wouldn’t have worked. Luckily for the film makers, they struck gold here. Colm Meaney always seems to show up in small roles, and even in Star Trek I think he proved he can do fantastic work. He was excellent, I know nothing about Revie but I felt this performance was perfect. At least it fit with the film, and the showdown he has towards the end of the film with Sheen was just full of such tension. Such a great and solid cast, I was a bit smiley when I saw Stephen Graham show up as Billy Bremner the Leeds Captain. Another fantastic actor, certainly deserves more credit. And keep an eye out for another amazing talent, Jim Broadbent.
If I had to fault this film it would be the pacing, it does fail the film a few times, but as engaging as it is I didn’t notice it too much and it certainly didn’t ruin the experience for me. I do enjoy films that are based on true events and real people, when done right they can be engaging and thought provoking. This was well made and entertaining, I think this is the kind of film even if you aren’t a soccer fan you’ll enjoy it. Certainly a film I can easily recommend, if anything just check out how fantastic Michael Sheen is.

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