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Movie Review: The Damned United

Alternate Title: Gooooooooooooooooooooooal!

Story: Why was I drawn to a sports movie when I haven't even a passing interest in sports? Mostly because it was written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, The Last King of Scotland and Frost/Nixon) and stars Michael Sheen (more on him below). My instincts were correct. This is a terrifically entertaining film about British footballers (soccer players to Americans) but it is mostly about a few fascinating real life, really flawed and interesting characters. It is most deftly directed by Tom Hooper and based on the novel by David Peace.

The film goes back and forth between 1968 and 1974 football crazed England. Two personality mismatched coaches take a second division bunch of nobodies to cup winning greatness in a few short years. Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, by name, are the two coaches. I had never heard of either but by the end of the film I was definitely a big fan of both of them.

The film is about one man's determination to make it big and show the men in suits that he is the boss and knows how to win against all odds. It is about egos, revenge and redemption. You will find yourself cheering for him despite himself and some of his really bad calls. The film captures the grime and grit of small town sport and the unswerving loyalty of the fans.

Believe me when I say there is absolutely no prior knowledge of football or soccer necessary to enjoy this film.

Check out the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_QiKT-6hlo

Acting: Michael Sheen as Brian Clough is wonderful. He embodies the spirit of the coach to a tee. Bravo. Timothy Spall as Peter Taylor, very often plays an over the top character, but this time he kept that tendency to a minimum and is ideal. Colm Meaney as Don Revie will always be Star Trek's Miles O'Brien to me, no matter how many great parts he plays. He hit it the nail on the head as the nemisis that drives Brian Clough. Jim Broadbent as team owner, Sam Longson, is always good, period.

Trivia: Director Peter Morgan's father Arthur Morgenthau, a German Jew, fled the Nazis, while his Polish mother Inga fled the Soviets. After they had emigrated to the UK, they chose the new surname Morgan, an Anglicization of Morgenthau. He is probably the only screenwriter in AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) history to have written the scenarios for both Best Actor & Best Actress in the same year in two (2) different films: Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland" Helen Mirren for "The Queen". As a young man, Michael Sheen turned down the opportunity to pursue a possible professional football career, opting to follow in the footsteps of Daniel Day-Lewis and Patrick Stewart by attending the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School instead of university. He has the distinction of having twice portrayed British Prime Minister Tony Blair in The Deal (2003) (TV) and The Queen (2006). Stephen Frears directed both projects. His father is a a professional Jack Nicholson look-a-like.

Predilection: I like both Peter Morgan and Michael Sheen

Critters: A fleeting dog in one background scene.

Food: Footballers have no time to eat. But oranges were featured in one scene.

Sex Spectrum: No sex, just a few butts in the distance.

Soundtrack: A terrific period soundtrack that starts with Tom Jones' 'What's New Pussycat?'

Opening Titles: Tom Jones' 'What's New Pussycat?' plays while Clough is driving towards his new coaching job.

Visual Art: Great depiction of the grit and grime of the time.

Theater Audience: About 30 men and me.

Weather: It rains a lot.

Sappy Factor: There is no sap in football.

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: 0

Drift Factor: I paid attention throughout.

Predictability Level: I had no idea what was going to happen.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Probably not.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen is preferable but a rental would be fine. For some other Michael Sheen films, you could rent: The Queen, Frost/Nixon and Blood Diamond. He will be playing the White Rabbit in the upcoming Alice in Wonderland film.

Length: 90 minutes