The Damned United tells the real-life tale of tenacious soccer manager Brian Clough (played with unerring accuracy by Michael Sheen, who has carved out a niche as the go-to guy when you need someone to play a famous Englishman) and his stewardship of Leeds United for a mere 44 days. He is consumed with hatred for the team’s previous manager, Don Revie (Colm Meaney), who has taken a job coaching the national team, and Clough’s new set of players (as well as the fans) don’t care much for him. The whole setup was doomed to fail and it did. The film works largely because Sheen is Clough, his portrayal helped by his own excellence as a soccer player (as a youngster, Sheen was offered a trial by the London club Arsenal). When he traps the ball, spins around and scores a goal, no visual trickery is required. The film also perfectly depicts how, in sports, team and personal rivalries can often meld into one. It might have slipped under the radar in America, but director Tom Hooper’s follow-up film, The King’s Speech, certainly did not.
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