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Tom Hooper
Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, Jim Broadbent, Henry Goodman, David Roper, Jimmy Reddington , Oliver Stokes
Writing Credits:
Peter Morgan, David Peace (novel)

"They love me for what I'm not ... they hate me for what I am."

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 triumphs as Clough starring alongside a winning ensemble cast that includes Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney and Jim Broadbent. 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.

Box Office:
$10 million.
Opening Weekend
$37.675 thousand on 15 screens.
Domestic Gross
$445.259 thousand.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $28.96
Release Date: 2/16/2010

• Audio Commentary with Director Tom Hooper, Actor Michael Sheen and Producer Andy Harries
• Nine Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “Cloughisms” Outtakes with Optional Commentary
• “Perfect Pitch: The Making of The Damned United” Featurette
• “Creating Clough: Michael Sheen Takes on ‘Old Big ‘Ead’” Featurette
• “Remembering Brian” Featurette
• “The Changing Game: Football in the Seventies” Featurette
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Damned United (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 2, 2010)

If this review appeared on a non-US site, I’d refer to how The Damned United looks at football. However, I’m an American, dagnabbit, so I’ll refer to how United looks at soccer! Hooray for provincialism!

In July 1974, Leeds United stands as England’s premier soccer squad. Longtime manager Don Revie (Colm Meaney) leaves to take over control of the national team, so the United needs a new coach.

Into this breach steps Brian Clough (Michael Sheen), a relatively young, awfully cocksure manager who immediately wants to shake up Leeds despite the team’s consistent success. What inspires him to work this way? The film soon heads back to 1968 to look at his path to Leeds and what happens during his disastrous 44-day tenure as the coach of the United.

Because it concerns itself with a sport and a league largely unfamiliar to a US audience, it might seem likely that Americans would find it tough to get into United. However, a familiarity with soccer and the film’s circumstances are completely unnecessary, as they’re somewhat incidental.

Instead, United is a clear character drama that focuses on Clough’s tale. After success in roles as Tony Blair and David Frost, Sheen finds himself at risk of becoming stereotyped as nothing more than a mimic. And maybe that’s his lot, but as United reminds us, Sheen proves to be an awfully fine mimic.

That’s because he doesn’t simply impersonate his characters; he inhabits them and makes them full-fledged people. Given my utter unfamiliarity with Clough, I can’t judge how accurately Sheen replicates the manager, but I can say that he creates a compelling personality and really loses himself in the role. It’s fairly astonishing to think that Sheen is the same actor who played Frost and Blair, as he seems like a different person each time. Granted, each personality exhibits a form of superficial cockiness, but Sheen still manages to develop them in satisfying, unique ways.

Going into United, I figured it’d offer something of a comedic romp, a Bad News Bears of English soccer. That feels about right for a while, as the film plays for laughs in its early moments. However, it gets somewhat darker as it goes, especially in the way it paints Clough’s compulsive need to top Revie. He becomes positively obsessed with his Leeds predecessor, and this desire to exceed his accomplishments infects everything he does.

United partly demonstrates this via Clough’s relationship with Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall), his right-hand man. As Clough’s obsession escalates, he becomes monomaniacal and gradually alienates Taylor. That adds a sadness to the film I didn’t quite anticipate and gives it more depth.

Not that I’d call United a tragedy, as it remains a little too light for that, and it does come with a happy ending. However, it does exhibit a dramatic nature that makes it more involving and substantial than the comedy I expected. We find a consistently compelling, involving tale here.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

The Damned United appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie featured a generally positive transfer.

Sharpness came across reasonably well. Some wider shots tended to be a bit iffy, but those failed to create prominent distractions. Overall, the image was acceptably accurate. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes caused no distractions. Source flaws caused no concerns, as the flick remained clean and fresh at all times. (Except for the occasional examples of archival footage, however; those clips showed some defects.)

Like most period pieces, United went with a stylized palette. The flick cast much of its material in a chilly, overcast British air. Within that range, the colors looked solid. Blacks seemed deep and firm, while shadows provided nice clarity and delineation. For the most part, this was a positive presentation.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Damned United worked fine for the material. The soundscape didn’t provide a lot of pizzazz. Music demonstrated nice stereo imaging, and the soccer sequences added a nice sense of place. This was a forward-oriented mix that used the surrounds in a moderate manner to reinforce the sound of crowds, and it did that well.

Audio quality seemed satisfying. Speech always appeared warm and natural, with no edginess or other issues. Music was full, as the score showed solid reproduction. Effects also boasted good clarity and definition, though they didn’t exactly push the auditory envelope. Overall, the soundtrack was perfectly acceptable for this sort of flick.

We find a nice set of extras here. We open with an audio commentary from director Tom Hooper, actor Michael Sheen and producer Andy Harries. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/script issues and editing, cast and performances, locations and historical elements, visual design and period details, music, cinematography, and a few other areas.

This commentary provides a well-balanced examination of the flick. Usually tracks with actors disappoint, but Sheen proves to be unusually thoughtful; he allows us nice insights into his work as well as other areas. Hooper and Harries contribute quite a lot, so the three combine to create a fine commentary.

Nine Deleted Scenes run a total of 34 minutes, 22 seconds. These include “Leeds 1974 ‘Whose Desk Is This, Love?’” (2:58), “Leeds 1974: ‘Is Everything Alright, Brian?’” (1:48), “Leeds 1972: ‘That Was As Perfect a Half of Terrible Football As I’ve Ever Seen!’” (4:01), “Leeds 1974: ‘Never Got It’” (1:16), “Leeds 1974: ‘I’m Not Fucking English’” (1:40), “Leeds 1974: ‘Fucking Scot’” (5:01), “Leeds 1974: ‘Never Come Between a Footballer and His Motor’” (12:08), “Leeds 1974: ‘Keep Fighting’ Version 1” (2:04) and “Leeds 1974: ‘Keep Fighting’ Version 2” (3:26).

As you can tell from the titles, the vast majority of these clips look at Clough’s time with Leeds. Only “Terrible” takes us back to his stint with Derby; it shows what led to Clough’s in-game exile during the match in which they finally beat Leeds.

The others reinforce Clough’s problems as the manager of Leeds and his attempts to exorcise the memories of Don Revie. All of these are interesting to see, but I think they’d have been redundant in the final movie. We already understand very well Clough’s obsession with Revie and his trouble dealing with his new team; another half-hour of that information wouldn’t have been helpful. Nonetheless, we find a lot of enjoyable material here.

We can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Hooper. He give us background about the sequences and lets us know why he cut the clips. Hooper continues to be insightful and informative.

More unused footage shows up in a nine-minute reel of Cloughisms. These recreate Clough TV interviews and appear in partial form throughout United. We see “Clough on Derby’s 1st Division Championship in 1972” (5:32), “Clough on Chairmen and the Beautiful Game” (1:37), “Clough on Don Revie” (1:29) and “Clough on Russia” (0:22). These don’t offer the story points found in the deleted scenes, but they’re entertaining and a nice addition to the set.

Except for “Russia”, these can also be viewed with or without more commentary from Hooper. He doesn’t have as much to say here as during the “Deleted Scenes”, so don’t expect a ton of insight. Cooper throws out a few minor thoughts and that’s about it.

Four featurettes ensue. Perfect Pitch: The Making of The Damned United goes for 16 minutes, 24 seconds and includes remarks from Hooper, Harries, Sheen, football coach/choreographer Simon Clifford, production designer Eve Stewart, screenwriter Peter Morgan, and actors Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, and Stephen Graham. The show examines the source novel and its adaptation, cast, characters and performances, shooting the soccer scenes, sets and locations, and themes. Some of this info appears during the commentary, but we get a reasonable amount of new material. “Pitch” covers production basics in a satisfying manner.

In the 10-minute, 16-second Creating Clough: Michael Sheen Takes on “Old Big ‘Ead”, we hear from Sheen. He talks about Clough and other characters as well as his performance. Sheen already offers many good insights during the commentary, so he doesn’t throw out a ton of new details here. Nonetheless, he continues to be engaging and informative.

Remembering Brian goes for nine minutes, 32 seconds and features info from Clifford, Sheen, former broadcast journalist Austin Mitchell, and former players John McGovern and Eddie Gray. As promised, we get the participants’ thoughts on Clough. I appreciate the perspectives offered by Mitchell and the former players, as they give us a good first-hand account of the movie’s subject.

Finally, we get The Changing Game: Football in the Seventies. It lasts 19 minutes, 10 seconds and offers notes from Gray, Mitchell, Leeds United fan David Silver, Leeds Trinity and All Saints Senior Lecturer Dr. Jon Dart, football historian Jack Hinde, and former players Led Green and Gordon McQueen. The featurette looks at various aspects of the sport during the 1970s and how things have changed since then. This fleshes out concepts touched on during the movie, so we learn a reasonable amount from it.

The disc opens with some ads. We get clips for The White Ribbon, An Education and The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day. These also appear under Previews along with promos for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Broken Embraces, Rudo Y Cursi, Sugar and A Prophet. No trailer for United shows up here.

On the surface, The Damned United gives us a glimpse of English soccer in the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, it cares more about its dramatic side, as it offers a surprisingly rich tale of competitive obsession. The DVD provides fairly good picture and audio along with a solid collection of supplements. United comes out of nowhere to provide a consistently involving movie that earns my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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