From the Academy Award-nominated writer of The Queen and Frost/Nixon, The Damned United is based on the incredible true story of Brian Clough, one of England’s greatest soccer managers and his 44 controversial days at the helm of reigning champs Leeds United. Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and Twilight Saga: New Moon) triumphs as Clough starring alongside a winning ensemble cast that includes Timothy Spall (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), Colm Meaney (Layer Cake) and Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince). This inspiring and humorous sports drama is about the power of friendship in the face of adversity and the stubborn will of one man to play by his own rules.
You don't have to like football (or soccer, as we call it in the U.S.) to enjoy The Damned United, because this sharp, funny movie isn't about sports any more than Citizen Kane is about running a newspaper. The Damned United is about ego--specifically, the large and driven ego of Brian Clough (Michael Sheen), the manager of a low-rung football team who, along with his assistant Peter Taylor (the always superb Timothy Spall, Secrets & Lies), brought his team to the top rank. At which point Clough self-destructed, even as he seemed to be given the keys to even greater heights: he was hired as the new manager of Leeds United, perhaps the strongest team in England, replacing his longtime rival Don Revie (Colm Meaney, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). The Damned United bounces back and forth in time, deftly laying out Clough's rise and fall, transforming a man who initially seems an unbearable, domineering jerk into someone you feel for deeply. After Frost/Nixon and The Queen, Sheen practically specializes in playing real people, but his performance here is utterly stellar, by turns brilliantly comic and subtly moving. The movie lets the relationship between Clough and Taylor unspool organically, until the love and anger between them starts to fray and collapse. This is a riveting and ultimately invigorating story, psychologically compelling and with more twists and turns than a crime thriller. Simply a great movie. --Bret Fetzer
Stills from The Damned United (Click for larger image)