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The Damned United

They love me for what I'm not...they hate me for what I am. 

Year: 2009 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Tom Hooper 
Starring: Michael Sheen, Colm Meaney, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Spall  
An image from The Damned United

Recounting the disastrous 44-day tenure of Brian Clough (Michael Sheen) as manager of Leeds, The Damned United charts the bitter rivalries and clashing egos which characterised Clough's spell at the club he had despised. After the outspoken Clough replaces rival Done Revie (Colm Meaney), he is plunged into conflict with the Leeds chairman, fans and players and his closest friend and former assistant Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall), his single-minded and uncompromising approach bringing about a revolt against him as he struggles to deal with the strain of being in the Top One of football managers.

Continuing the acclaimed collaboration of writer Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen, The Last King Of Scotland) and Michael Sheen, who has previously played Tony Blair, David Frost and Kenneth Williams, The Damned United switches back and forth between the cocky Clough's glorious successes at Derby in the 60s and his conflict-ridden period managing old rivals Leeds in the early 70s, showing both his highs and his lows and painting a picture of a man whose blunt style and eccentric mannerisms hid a conflicted and self-destructive genius.

Michael Sheen gives yet another piercingly precise chameleon-like performance as the antagonistic Clough, at once supremely self-confident and deeply troubled, and brings both enormous wit and warmth to what might otherwise have been a film of little interest to those unfamiliar with Clough. But Sheen's performance, and the focus on the action off the pitch (and in particular Clough's lifelong friendship with the put-upon Peter Taylor, brilliantly played by Timothy Spall) ensures that The Damned United offers plenty for those unconcerned with the rivalries and politics of seventies football. It is by turns a cutting sketch of an arrogant and often comical figure, and a warm testimonial to enduring friendship.

David Gorman

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Screenings of this film:

2009/2010 Autumn Term (35mm)
2013/2014 Spring Term (35mm)