review: The Damned United (2009)

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Ok… So I actually wrote most of this review last week but somehow it’s all been deleted, very upsetting. Oh well, better just get on with it.

I like watching football, but I don’t know all that much about some of the history of it. All I knew about Brian Clough was that he once punched a couple of fans who were invading the pitch. Later they apologised… So obviously he was a legend.

The Damned United is based on a controversial novel by David Peace. Well it’s controversial in football circles anyway. It seems to be generally accepted that the events it described didn’t exactly happen the way they do in the book. In fact David Peace was sued by former Leed Utd. and Irish international player Johnny Giles. Johnny won. I have to believe however, that the film-makers left any of the controversial bits out… the screen play was written by Peter Morgan, a writer who has already proved himself with a number of historial figures with both The Queen and Frost/Nixon. I liked both those films but I wasn’t blown away by either of them. Still, I was looking forward to The Damned United, Cloughie sounded like an interesting subject.

Anyway I should probably start the review.

I thought there was a great balance in this film. It was an interesting portrait of a man who seemed both charming and arrogant. There’s a good bit of football in it but it wasn’t excessive, it didn’t become boring at any point. I think that even if you’re not into football at all there is still plenty to enjoy in the film.

Strong performances by all the cast, in particular Micheal Sheen, but Colm Meaney and Timothy Spall ably supported him. I still can’t believe he’s the same guy who was in Underworld all those years ago. Actually he was in Underworld this year as well. Some people like variety I guess.

Plotwise, it’s a biography so it’s pretty straight up. I found it interesting just because it was great to learn more about a person whose name I’d heard a lot about but never really knew anything about. Obviously it was a very small slice of his life and it’s an unauthorised look at it at that. Still I thought it really managed to capture his character very well, or at least a character, and I’m just going to assume that it was the right one.

So on the whole I’m giving this film a good rating – 8/10 – but to be honest it’s not that I would particularly recommended it in the sense that… It’s a good solid film, interesting story, great performances, but maybe it’s just not the kind of film that grabs my attention. There’s nothing to ponder on, it’s not… meaty, if you will. I’m glad I watched it though and if you’re a fan of biopics then by all means go and see it, it’s a good film.


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