The Damned United
Posted on 28 March 2009 | 10:03am
I liked it, though not as much as I was hoping to. My sons said much the same. My partner and daughter weren’t that keen to come, which suggests in the build up the message has been football, football, football, rather than incredible story of extraordinary period in the life of remarkable human being.
First things first – yes, Michael Sheen is brilliant as Brian Clough and, unless they were using body doubles, no mean footballer too. The Don Revie character is also superb. Bafta award to the hair and make-up department for him alone. Some of the mixing of the film and real footage also worked well, though it was frustrating to see Clough’s entire Nottingham Forest career scrunched into a couple of video clips before the credits.
To be fair, this was not about his time at Forest but his miserable 44 days as manager of Leeds, and the visceral hatred of Don Revie, his predecessor in the job, that led him to take it. That part of the film works well, as does the growing tension between him and the players. The ‘dirty Leeds’ theme is strong both in film, with a vicious Norman Hunter tackle on Clough in training, and in old TV footage – oh what memories, the Billy Bremner-Kevin Keegan bust up in the Charity Shield at Wembley. Loved it.
The two things that didn’t work for me were the constant chopping and changing between his time at Derby and his time at Leeds, though again I can see how hard the story is to tell, other than in a linear fashion, without that. And there was one scene I found really irritating, if only because I cannot imagine it happening, and the storyline was strong enough without it. If it did happen, apologies, but seriously, was Brian Clough once so nervous about Derby v Revie’s Leeds that he hid away in a room beneath the stands, tried to follow the game via the crowd noise, and only learned his team had won 2-1 when he fell into the arms of his assistant Peter Taylor (there’s a fair bit of that by the way) after the match had finished?
Perhaps it was because I liked Clough so much as a character, and loved the ITV documentary so much, that I had built up my own expectations too high. But my sons said almost exactly the same thing – that it didn’t draw them in emotionally as they had been expecting, and they ended up liking it as much for the old footage as the new film.
All that being said, it is worth seeing, not least for the Clough-Revie encounter on TV at the end. Oh, and the wonderful contempt in Sheen-as-Clough’s voice when he says ‘Tories’ as a reason for him and Taylor not to manage Brighton and Hove Albion.
One more observation from last night – I should say that whatever I may have said about In The Loop on The Culture Show, judging by the reaction of the audience when the trailers were on, it will do very well without me.
Finally, someone responded to yesterday’s blog by saying they would vote Labour if I could answer the question – why did communism fail but socialism has seemed to prosper? Better thinkers than I have written hundreds of thousands of words on the subject, but I will try with a sentence – because socialism is about delivering social justice whilst going with the grain of freedom; communism will destroy both if they are felt to obstruct the ideology.