I’m really glad that my first sports movie review is for this gem. The Damned United is a specific film for a specific group of people, but if you’re interested in football or you would just like to see what drives people in this game, check it out. I know it’s about football, but it’s also a brilliant study of character, male relationships, and psyche. Up until now, movies about football were mostly about hooligans. Sure, Goal and Mean Machine are exceptions but they’re only confirming the rule. And I’m not saying that movies like The Football Factory or I.D. are bad, it’s just they’re one-sided. Sometimes it’s good to get out of your usual movie selection and check out something a bit different. And just so you know, the director Tom Hooper is also the guy behind The King’s Speech and The Danish Girl.
English football is one of those things that are inherently good, like Polish brutal death metal. And here we will be following a story about two great managers and rivals, Don Revie and Brian Clough. Based on true events, it provides valuable insights into the way football used to be. And it also provides great material for trashing the new ways during the next game. You also might want to check out The English Game, Netflix miniseries about the very beginnings of football in England. Michael Sheen was phenomenal as Brian Clough, not to mention the immortal Colm Meaney and lovely Timothy Spall… This is a male equivalent of those romantic comedies….
It is the year of our lord 1968 and Derby County (bottom of the second division) is playing a FA Cup game against Leeds (leaders of the first division). Derby County’s manager is Brian Clough, a very modern manager with great desire and ambition to get to the top and his adversary is Don Revie, an incredibly successful manager who prefers to play “his” version of football with a lot of “dirty” moves. After a defeat and personal humiliation, Brian vows to avenge Derby County just in time to replace Don Revie as the Leeds manager…
I do not know if this is an accurate representation of Brian, Don, and the rest of the guys. The filmmakers stressed that they were looking to: “tell a wonderful and extraordinary story with universal themes of success, jealousy and betrayal”. And they did tell it, not so universal but still 🙂 I know that this is a movie about those things, but I loved how they showed the “old ways” of football. All this being said, The Damned United is firmly focused on characters and not on the football pitch. I know that this might come as a disappointment to some of you but it gave much more depth to the movie. And don’t worry, they’ll be plenty of football here. You can even draw parallels with some of the managers active today.
I also loved the cinematography here, taking us back to the sixties and seventies with style. Even the camera angles are creative and unusual, giving it a more of an artistic vibe. As bonus material, I would like to settle that Football Vs Soccer argument. Both terms originated in the United Kingdom and the whole confusion comes from the idiots on both the UK and the US sides. If you want to read up on it this guy did a whole study on “It’s Football not Soccer”.
Director: Tom Hooper
Writer: Peter Morgan, David Peace
Cast: Colm Meaney, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Maurice Roëves, Henry Goodman, Stephen Graham
Fun Facts: Saltergate, Chesterfield was standing in for Baseball Ground and Wembley scenes.