The Damned United (First Look Review)
In his portrayal of famed British soccer team manager Brian Clough, Michael Sheen ("The Queen") solidifies his status as this generation's Laurence Olivier in Tom Hooper's enthralling adaptation of Peter Morgan's 2006 book "The Damned Utd." Hooper works effortlessly with Morgan's unconventionally formatted screenplay that flips between eras to explore Brian Clough's dynamic personality that took him from managing teams in Hartlepool and Derby to a doomed six-week tenure managing the Leeds United reigning champions. The Leeds team was previously managed by Clough's sworn rival and enemy Don Revie (Colm Meaney). With his trusted and gifted assistant Peter Taylor (persuasively played by Timothy Spall) by his side, Clough attempts to transform soccer from a cheater's game to a fun sport played with integrity by real champions. You can smell the damp air in Hooper's stylistically authentic framing that benefits from a great ensemble team of filmmakers that includes cinematographer Ben Smithard, production designer Eve Stewart ("Fifty Dead Men Walking") and costume designer Mike O'Neill. Even non-soccer fans will find themselves swept up in the drama of one man's bold attempt to reinvent an entire sport against a tidal wave of opposition. "The Damned United" is one damned entertaining movie.
(Sony Pictures Classic) Rated R. 97 mins. (A+) (Five Stars)
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