The Damned United (2009)

The Damned United (2009) tmdb posterIn The Damned United, Michael Sheen portrays the rise and fall of Brian Clough, a brilliant but brash football manager who can’t keep his mouth shut and defies his chairman repeatedly. With his assistant Peter Taylor, Clough takes Derby County from the bottom of 2nd division in 1967 to the 1st division championship in 1972. (The movie compresses and rearranges the time scale a bit in depicting the story.) In 1974, Clough becomes manager of hated rival Leeds United, but without Taylor, he is his own worst enemy and lasts only 44 days.

When watching The Damned United, besides Sheen’s performance, I wondered why is this soccer movie so good? Well, it turns out that this BBC film has quite a pedigree behind it: Director Peter Hooper made The King’s Speech. And screenwriter Peter Morgan wrote The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, and Frost/Nixon. Hooper, Morgan, and Sheen all excell at brilliant strong character dramas.

The DVD has a lot of extras that give background on Brian Clough and how the movie was made, including commentary by director, producer, and Sheen. Director Hooper mentions they felt it critical to make the football real, so they hired the best footballing actors around. Michael Sheen is also quite a player himself.

Besides believable soccer, there is also a bit of footage showing how brutally Leeds United played in the 1970s. One reason Clough failed at Leeds was because in his first meeting with the players, he tells them to toss all their trophies and hardware in the trash bin, because they were all earned by cheating.

The movie was made for $10M but only earned $4M box office. It had only a limited release in the USA.

SoccerMovieMom Rating = 8


Release Date: 2009-03-27 (UK)
Director: Tom Hooper