Monday, December 20, 2010

#9: The Damned United

As far as screenwriters who adapt works from other sources go, they don't come better than Peter Morgan (State of Play, Frost/Nixon, The Queen) and as far as actors who portray real life characters on screen go, they don't come finer than Michael Sheen ( Frost/Nixon, Queen, The Deal). And that explains why these two people have collaborated with each other so often in a fairly short span of time. And in doing so have brought to screen alive some of the best work that can be seen on film.

The Damned United spans the career of Brian Clough( Sheen), touted as the best soccer manager ever to have not coached the English National Team. The movie traces his path as starts out by managing a small-time second division club and from there on his journey to managing Leeds United - the most feared club in those days. His partner-in-coaching is his long time ally Peter Taylor ( Timothy Spall).

Based on Clough's coaching years from 1968 to 1974, the movie takes it's viewers through a whole range of emotions. The character of Clough and his partnership with Taylor is the foundation of the movie. That camarederie is neatly built upon to show an interesting conflict later that makes for a riveting story. The team of Leeds United is another critical character in the movie whose dominance of the EPL runs parallel to Clough's ascent as a coach. Director Tom Hooper stays away from any temptation to focus on the action of soccer instead keeping the story solely based on Clough's characterization. Needless to add, Michael Sheen nails the character.

Few of the scenes in the movie are moments of magic. There's one where Sheen asks for an unreasonable sum of money to do something and another manager disgusted with Sheen's expectation asks him: ' Who the f**k do you think you are ?'. Just for that one reply from Sheen (saving the spoilers), the movie will be well worth your time.The Damned United is one sports movie that I've never seen mentioned in any list of top sports movie compilations. Simply put, it belongs right up there with the best.

Rating: 8.75/10