Brian Clough was one of England’s most successful football managers that never got a chance to take the helm of the national team. The Damned United is an adaptation of a book of the same name. Directed by Tom Hooper the film was released March 27th 2009 in the UK. So let’s get down to business.
It’s the year 1974 and England has failed to secure a spot in the next World Cup. Don Revie (Colm Meaney) has been called up to manage the most important job in English football and the only candidate to lead his ex-team, Leeds United, to keep them on the winning streak is none other than Brian Clough (Michael Sheen.) Before the story begins a quick look at Clough’s way to the top is told. Could his experience help the team he previously despised win it all again? Or, will his past come back to haunt him? Without his longtime friend by his side, now is the time to show what he is made of.
The Damned United is a film about Brian Clough, brilliant football manager in England, and his quick 44-day reign of the powerful Leeds United. But the film doesn’t just look over Clough’s quick Leeds reign, but takes a look at the years before 1974 and Clough’s struggles with lower division teams. His impressive determination and one of a kind attitude not only does it bring him trouble, but all around success in the field and outside. The film attempts to show the man behind the name tackling several different key years of his managerial career.
The overall presentation of the film is impressive; Tom Hooper was able to recreate the era and time during the life of Revie and Clough; the clothing, the boots, the stadium, the fans, etc. Everything was done with extreme detail and the overall result was great. Hooper’s casting choices were spot on as well, Michael Sheen as Brian Clough, Timothy Spall as Peter Taylor and Colm Meaney as Don Revie give perfect performances recreating the characters assigned to each one. If you happen to have heard the audio commentary, Sheen explains the research he did to try and emulate Clough and try to bring the character to life, it is impressive the lengths he went to deliver his performance.
The Damned United at first look may appear like just another sport movie, technically it is, but it’s a damn good sports movies. It’s not your typical sport movie where inspirational speeches are thrown left and right to conjure strength to the team to win in the most difficult situations. No, The Damned United is not that type of movie. The rise to the top, the betrayal, and ultimately forgiveness are all part of the film. Sure, at the end everything is jolly and happiness, but not before a tough lesson is learned from the main character.
I do have to mention that this film is based on a book by the same name, The Damned United, written by David Peace. However, the book is based on Peace’s interpretation and according to several sources there are several inaccuracies throughout the film. However, if you remain interested there are several places where you can find more information on Brian Clough. All in all The Damned United is an excellent film regardless of your preference in sports; give it a chance you might find yourself surprised.
The Damned United arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG4-AVC encode framed at 1.85:1. This is a very good looking transfer, from the very first minute you will get a glance at the washed out appearance. This washed out image dominates most of the film, except a few beach side scenes. Skin-tones appear pale and somewhat dreadful. Colors are somewhat vibrant, especially blue, red, and black. The fine details are rendered nicely and it’s very noticeable on structures like the Leeds stadium, he clothes being used by the individuals or even on the deteriorating walls of the Derby Country club halls. The Damned United looks damn good on Blu-ray.
The Damned United arrives on Blu-ray with a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Master Audio lossless track. This is another very heavy dialogue drama so the track is not as robust it does appear to have under perform. The dialogue is decent and at times it sounds muffled. There is some atmosphere and ambience sounds being reproduced from the rear channels. The biggest negatives are during the football games where I would expect the track to shine, but the sound never really seemed to hit you with all the chanting and screaming in the stadium. There is a plus to this track though; the music score is crystal clear. This is probably one of Sony’s few titles that didn’t quite live up to expectation; however, the track isn’t all bad.
I am a usual complainer over supplements. Some films may deserve more than others, but sometimes those that are begging for some extras and they come with none. This time I was not expecting much and I was greatly surprised. The Damned United packs a decent set of supplements, but let’s get the break down shall we?
Audio Commentary – Featuring Tom Hopper, Michael Sheen, and Andy Harries. They tackle various different topics from the technical aspect of the film to the research involved for making this film. The track is very interesting and offers some insights in the work behind the film. Very interesting audio track.
Cloughisms – This features a set of four scenes that make up the television interviews that are shown during the film. You also have the option of the director commentary.
Perfect Pitch: The Making of The Damned United – This features everything surrounding the film; the process behind adapting the book to the big screen, the characters, the shooting locations, and more.
The Changing Game: Football in the Seventies – A collection of footage of around the time Brian Clough’s successful coaching.
Remembering Brian – A collection of interviews from various individuals recalling their memories on Brian.
Creating Clough: Michael Sheen Takes on ‘Old Big Ead’ – This features Michael Sheen and he talks about the challenges behind bringing Brain Clough to life.
Deleted Scenes – A set of 9 deleted scenes are included with optional director’s commentary.
Movie Trailers – A set of movie trailers have been included, among are: Broken Embraces, An Education, The Boondock Saints II: All Saint’s Day, Sugar, Michael Jackson’s This Is It, It Might Get Loud, Moon, Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season, Rudo y Cursi, Soul Power, Coco Before Chanel, A River Runs Through It, Rocky Balboa, and The Natural.
Whether you like the real football (oh yeah I went there!) or not The Damned United is an excellent film. Sure at first glance you might think of it as another sports film, but I beg to differ. The Damned United is much more of a drama than anything else. The acting is a great, the story is equally interesting, and the directing is up to par. Don’t forget the video and audio transfers are both exceptional and properly accompanied by a set of decent supplements. Regardless of your sport “affiliation” you should give this film a chance. Comes highly recommended.