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Starring: Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Stephen Graham, Jim Broadbent, Colm Meaney

Director: Tom Hooper

Writers: Peter Morgan,  David Peace

Cinematography: Ben Smithard

Original Music: Robert Lane

Running Time: 97 Mins.

Michael Sheen has a knack for taking well known British figures and turning them into some rather fantastic performances beyond mere impressionism as could be the tendency of many an actor, so far Tony Blair, David Frost and Kenneth Williams have been amongst his star turns but somehow he has failed to find a level where his is the name above the title, bar his second billing in Frost/Nixon.

In The Damned United Sheen once again tackles a national treasure and once more the man, in this case football manager Brian Clough, becomes more than a caricature, in fact it is fair to say that this could well be Sheen best performance yet imbuing his Clough with a great deal of warmth to take the edge of the man’s cocksure nature. Despite Clough being a football premiership manager The Damned United really is not a film about football at all, thankfully, and I can only hope audeinces will appreciate this, in fact it is agt heart all about friendship between two men.

The man whom Clough is often seen as owing his success too is assistant manager Peter Davidson, played here by the ever excellent Timothy Spall. Davidson was the brains to Clough’s mouth, something which Clough would never admit too and doesn’t  realise until it’s too late, as is always the case in filmland!

Split between two football seasons we follow Clough through his greatest achievement and biggest failure. Both stints a edited alongside each other expertly and neither takes precedent over the other as we learn of Clough’s rival with Leed’s manager (Colm Meaney), which is a little too underplayed truth be told, but as I said it is the friendship between Clough and Davidson that comes up trumps with a real feelgood ending. This is both the strength and downfall of the film for as feelgood as The Damned United is you may yearn for a little more depth in a biopic leaving us no clearer as to who the man really was.

There is word that Clough’s family are  not happy with the protrayal but it is hard to see what they disagree with, it may be far from a faithful adaptation of the source book but it paints a much more positive view of Clough adn something tells me he wasn’t quite this loveable, and in failing to mention his nototrious drink problem while making his cockiness seem like an amusing trait rather than ignorance you cant help but leave the cinema liking the man, or maybe that’s Sheen, even more!

VERDICT

Make no mistake The Damned United is not about football and you really won’t learn anything revelatory about the infamous manager, what you will do is enjoy a well acted chracter piece about the power of friendship. Slumdog Millionaire feel-good film of the year, I think this has pipped it too the post through the warmth and conviction of yet another classy Sheen performance!

grade-c1 

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