The Damned United Tom Hooper

The Damned United Tom Hooper
Michael Sheen has made a career out of portraying real people: Prime Minister Tony Blair (The Queen), journalist David Frost (Frost/Nixon), and The Damned United is no different, as he plays infamous Derby football (read: soccer) manager Brian Clough, who in 1973 raised second-division Derby FC to the number one spot in the first division, beating their biggest goliath, Leeds United, managed by Don Revie (Colm Meaney, Law Abiding Citizen, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). When Revie is promoted to manager of Team England, Clough is given the job of managing long-time nemesis Leeds, whom he has slandered and sullied in the press. Battling a bruised ego and his own personal demons, Clough uses his extraordinary playful wit to prove he's up to the task, with varying degrees of success. When complimented as "the best young manager in the country," Clough responds, "Thank you, I'm the best old one too." Clashes with team Chairmans (Jim Broadbent, Vanity Fair, Bridget Jones's Diary), football players (Stephen Graham, Snatch) and fellow coaches (Timothy Spall, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hollows) strains every aspect of his job and personal life. No one else but Sheen could have tackled the role of cheeky, football-adoring Clough, seeing as early on in life Sheen gave up the chance to play professional football. Sheen gives Clough an astute portrayal, highlighting his bravado and "Cloughisms," which raised Derby FC from the ditches of second division hell. His performance is compelling, intelligent and luminous, as he delivers without a hint of modesty lines like, "I wouldn't say I'm the best manager in the country, but I'm definitely in the top one." Sheen creates Clough's character like a tapestry-in-progress, loaded with complexity and mouthy charisma, holding the viewer's attention for the majority of the film just out of curiosity of what he'll do next. Director Tom Hooper (Longford) makes football history come alive in The Damned United with dramatic and evocative images. Rainy, muddy football pitches with gruff, grunting players, Yorkshire accents and everyone smoking a fag and downing a pint - every last detail in this film is highly stylized to frame a very specific early '70s golden age of English footie. Told in two contrasting time periods spanning five years, Hooper uses the interweaving periods to portray the height of Clough's success contrasted with his epic failures. It's Hooper's emphasis on Clough's relationships rather than the football games themselves that makes The Damned United work. It is a compelling biopic that makes you run to Wikipedia moments after the credits roll for more juicy details on the greatest football manager Team England never had. DVD extras include insightful director and actor commentaries, deleted scenes, a "making of" documentary, interviews with Michael Sheen, a retrospective of '70s football, and others. (Sony)