The Damned United
I don’t care if it’s raining, I’m done playing werewolves and vampires!

Theatrical Release Date: 10/9/2009 (USA), 03/27/2009 (UK)
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, Jim Broadbent, Stephen Graham

Pretty much every country but America has an obsession with football. And by football, I mean soccer. In England, it’s practically a religion. So much so, that choosing the coach of a major soccer club is top news. In 1974, that news was that Brian Clough was named manager of Leeds United – essentially the New York Yankees of English soccer. “The Damned United” tells the tale of how Clough came to be selected and the rough patches before and after that decision.

The casting department kicked a goal with this one, not only finding superb actors but managing to have them bear remarkable physical resemblances to their real life counterparts. Michael Sheen plays Clough and captured the unadulterated ambition and desperate bitterness he feels towards former Leeds coach Don Revie (Colm Meaney). Timothy Spall (whom I have yet to see turn in a bad performance) once again creates a character of fantastic depth and reality, even though it is Sheen’s Clough that hogs the spotlight by virtue of script and personality.

The plot unfolds as one might think, though telling it non-linearly does help to keep the traditional structure from dulling the sense too much. Though that being said, I still felt the movie dragged a bit in spots and that the overall excitement of the soccer (oops, football) matches never came through. This was partially intentional, as the sport isn’t the focus here but perhaps a bit more attention to detail here would have helped create a sense of action that was missing in the overall film.

What didn’t seem to be lacking in detail was the production design, as the filmmakers did a very nice job of bringing us back to the late 60s/early 70s. Still, that didn’t keep my attention from wandering at times because I could see where the film was going a mile away (partially due to the time jumping) and there were no twists or turns to keep the detective side of my brain active.

A 3 out of 5, “The Damned United” sports excellent acting performances but never seemed to come together for my taste. Football aficionados, especially those who are interested in the history of English football history, will find a lot to like here. Even those not necessarily interested in the sport but enjoy character driven films will find this to be well made and worth a watch on the pay channels or DVD since it has long left theaters. However, don’t expect a sports film and it may not be best to watch this too late at night.