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Tom Hooper
Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney
Writing Credits:
Peter Morgan

Brian Clough spends a controversial 44 days as manager of the football club Leeds United.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 2/23/2010

• Audio Commentary with Director Tom Hooper, Actor Michael Sheen and Producer Andy Harries
• 9 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “Cloughisms” Outtakes with Optional Commentary
• “Perfect Pitch” Featurette
• “Creating Clough” Featurette
• “Remembering Brian” Featurette
• “The Changing Game” Featurette
• Previews


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Damned United [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 30, 2023)

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. 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 found himself at risk of becoming stereotyped as nothing more than a mimic.

This doesn’t hold true, though, because Sheen doesn’t simply impersonate his characters. Instead, 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. Nonetheless, 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 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 Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

The Damned United appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie featured a strangely flat impression.

Sharpness became the primary concern, as more than a few shots seemed oddly soft. Plenty of elements came across with good delineation, and I figure that the film chose stylistic softness to fit its period feel, but the loose delineation still felt perplexing and inconsistent.

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 example of archival footage, however; those clips showed some defects.)

United went with a stylized palette that favored a heavy teal with occasional instances of amber. 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, though the softness became a liability.

The Dolby TrueHD 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.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? The BD’s lossless audio came with a similar soundscape but showed superior warmth and range.

As for visuals, the Blu-ray seemed better defined and rendered than the DVD. Though the latter worked well for its format – and the BD came with issues – I still thought the Blu-ray turned into a step up, it not a major one.

The Blu-ray replicates the DVD’s extras, and 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, 15 seconds. These include “Leeds 1974 ‘Whose Desk Is This, Love?’” (2:57), “Leeds 1974: ‘Is Everything Alright, Brian?’” (1:47), “Leeds 1972: ‘That Was As Perfect a Half of Terrible Football As I’ve Ever Seen!’” (4:00), “Leeds 1974: ‘Never Got It’” (1:15), “Leeds 1974: ‘I’m Not Fucking English’” (1:40), “Leeds 1974: ‘Fucking Scot’” (5:00), “Leeds 1974: ‘Never Come Between a Footballer and His Motor’” (12:07), “Leeds 1974: ‘Keep Fighting’ Version 1” (2:03) 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 gives 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” (5:31), “Clough on Chairmen and the Beautiful Game” (1:37), “Clough on Don Revie” (1:30) and “Clough on Russia” (0:20).

These don’t offer the story points found in the deleted scenes. Still, 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. Hooper 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, 26 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, 17-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, 34 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, 12 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 ads for Broken Embraces, An Education, and Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.

Trailers adds promos for Sugar, It Might Get Loud, Moon, Rudo y Cursi, Soul Power, Coco Before Chanel, Breaking Bad Season 2, Michael Jackson’s This Is It, A River Runs Through It, Rocky Balboa and The Natural (Director’s Cut). No trailer for United appears 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 Blu-ray 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.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of THE DAMNED UNITED

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main