Monday, 9 July 2012

The Damned United (movie)

After some prevarication, I recently read David Peace's novel, the Damned Utd:

The Damned Utd

It also seemed logical to check out the movie, The Damned United, which was based on said novel.

One of my first thoughts when watching the film was that the authenticity and attention to detail was a cut above what is normally forthcoming in "biopics".  The settings and aesthetic were well done, and perhaps most importantly not over-ambitious.  The 1970s hairstyles and fashions were much better realised than I had expected...

The only discordant note in this respect was struck by the football sequences in the movie, which I felt were unrealistic, perhaps falling victim to an over-earnest attempt to replicate what was perceived to be the slower but more robust style of football in the 1970s.  Thankfully, these shots were used only sparingly, and the film's makers sensibly employed real archive footage.  I did notice one error, though; the lettering on the back of Leeds' famous purple tracks-suits was yellow, not white!

A few of the early scenes I found a touch discouraging, feeling that the characterisations were being over-cooked, and the acting cloyed.  However, I stuck with it, and was rewarded.  The dialogue and acting became gradually less cringe-inducing and more plausible as it progressed.

I accept that compromises had to be made to fit the story into a manageable running time for a movie, but I would have liked more concentration on the period between Don Revie's resignation from the Leeds and the appointment of Brian Clough.

In assessing Michael Sheen's performance in the Clough role, I oscillated between admiring its occasional restraint and recoiling at what seemed to be an exaggerated portrayal of the man's well-known personality traits.

Overall, I found the film to be a slight disappointment, just ever so flat and anaemic.  However, like the book, it did provide a commendably mature and nuanced depiction of Clough, and did not pander to easy cliches.

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