Complete A-Z list

Damned United, The


Stars: Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent, Maurice Roeves, Colm Meaney

Director: Tom Hooper

Chameleon UK actor Sheen shifts his Tony Blair persona sideways again to shuffle under the skin of megalomaniac soccer boss Brian Clough, the 'greatest manager England never had'.

Taking over as manager of struggling Second Division (now Championship) side Derby County in 1968, Clough, working in tandem with talented assistant Peter Taylor (Spall), becomes obsessed with the tough and ruthless First Division (now Premiership) champions Leeds United, bossed by ebullient Don Revie (Meaney, scarily like the real thing).

Getting Derby promoted after just one season, Clough takes them to the top of the tree, beating Leeds in the process. But, five years later, following a clash with his trenchant chairman (Broadbent) over selecting his strongest team for a league match against Leeds, sustaining injuries that force him to field a weakened XI for a European Cup semi-final (which he loses), Clough offers his resignation, never dreaming it might be accepted - but it is.

Getting a job at lowly Brighton, Clough is out of the blue offered the manager's job at Leeds, his acceptance of which leads to a break with Taylor - and Clough's temporary downfall.

It's fascinating at first to watch the impersonations and re-creation of these turbulent years, but the film isn't that interesting even for aficionados, and struggles to make it as a bona-fide feature film, even though Sheen has Clough's voice spot-on. With the right archive material, though, it would make a terrific TV documentary.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Eastman Colour .
93 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 21 Mar 2009