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:: The Damned United

Let’s be honest a film like ‘The Damned United’ shouldn’t really appeal to many film fans. A film that is about the politics surrounding a soccer manager and his talent scout doesn’t sound like it has very much to offer, but if you are willing to give ‘The Damned United’ a chance you will be pleasantly surprised. Much of the succsess of this film must be credited to the fact that screenwriter, Peter Morgan is one of the best writers going around at the moment. He captures the same brilliance here that he produced with the scripts he wrote for ‘The Queen’, ‘The Last King Of Scotland’ and ‘Frost/Nixon’ and ‘The Damned United’ becomes one of the best films to surface out of England in a while.

The film follows soccer manager, Brian Clough (Michael Sheen) and his talent scout, Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall). Together the pair turned a struggling soccer team into a legitimate premier league team, during which time he develops an unhealthy rivalry with Leeds United’s manager Don Revie (Colm Meaney). When Brian is offered the manager’s role at Leeds he turns his back on his friends in a desperate bid to prove that he is a better manager than Revie, but things at Leeds aren’t what Brian dreamed they would be.

Director Tom Hooper takes Morgan’s script and turns it into a film that even the most hardened soccer hater would warm to. More importantly he makes the story at hand completely accessible to anyone, even people that have never watched a game of soccer in their life. The way Hooper brings this story to life is truly remarkable, the characters leap off the screen with complete realism and the film’s dialogue is so natural that it literally feels like you are watching a documentary. The only other film that I have ever seen that does this as well was ‘Friday Night Lights’… yet another sport’s movie.

Hooper is also well backed up by some brilliant performances by Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall who are both sensational… it won’t happen but both deserve Oscars for their performances here. Sheen takes the character of Brian Clough and makes him likeable. In the hands of some less-experienced actors you could easily see Clough being a character that would be difficult to warm to, but here you actually care for Clough, and you seem to just ignore his mistakes. As usual Spall puts in a wonderful performance and he once again shows that he is one of England’s most under-rated actors.

‘The Damned United’ is a great drama that is made up of one of the best scripts you are ever likely to see. This film is a British gem and if people choose not to see it because of its soccer theme, then they are doing themselves a disservice.