Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Apr 20th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Soccer To Me

film_damnedunitedSheen scores in bracing Brit sports drama 'The Damned United'

Michael Sheen turns in another beautifully calibrated performance as a real-life character from recent British history in The Damned United. After starring as newly-minted Prime Minister Tony Blair in The Queen, and wily media pro David Frost in Frost/Nixon, Sheen here rises to the challenge of playing someone a bit less posh, but no less celebrated—legendary soccer manager Brian Clough. Mostly unknown in America, Clough is as notorious in Britain for his ego, his gift of gab, and his provocative antics as for his skill in shepherding hopeless Third Division teams from the north of England into stunning and impossible championships.

Scripted by Peter Morgan (The Queen; Frost/Nixon), The Damned United is based on a novel by David Peace which imagines the inner workings of Clough's mind during a critical period of his career in the late 1960s and early '70s. How closely (or not) Peace's work of fiction overlays the facts of Clough's career shouldn't matter to viewers caught up in Morgan's bracing, near-epic drama of supreme hubris, profound vindication, and dazzling chutzpa.

Director Tom Hooper navigates the story's fragmented time frame with skill and clarity. Dramatic highlights from Clough's career play off against fascinating flashbacks that help to connect all the dots. In 1974, the most dominant team in British football, Leeds United, loses its leader when fabled manager Don Levie (Colm Meany) is picked to coach England's World Cup team. The press, public, and players react with shock and awe when his replacement turns out to be Brian Clough (Sheen), Levie's longtime rival, and stylistic opposite, both on and off the field.

Flashback to 1969, to another northern industrial town, Derby, whose lower-division football team is managed by Clough. No one could be more excited than Clough, when "real footballers" from Leeds arrive for a match. But when Leeds trounces Derby, and Levie snubs Clough, a magnificent grudge is born. Abetted by his best pal, assistant manager Peter Taylor (the great Timothy Spall), with his acute nose for ferreting out talent, and infuriating the parsimonious club chairman (Jim Broadbent) with ever more outrageous and expensive contracts, Clough teases, cajoles, and finesses (but never bullies; that's not his style) his Derby team into  champions who ultimately take on Leeds in their own division.

But Derby's phoenix-like rise exacts its personal and professional toll on Clough, whose entertaining (and wonderfully telegenic) cockiness can also be his worst enemy. And as the film adroitly bounces back and forth along this crucial timeline in Clough's career, it starts to become something very different from the typical feel-good sports movie the viewer might expect. The intractable Leeds players aren't about to warm up to the former enemy who calls them "cheaters," while the small revelations of what Clough gave up to get there are hardly inspirational. Nor is the movie much interested in the action on the field. (In one terrific sequence, Clough waits out a critical match in the clubhouse, too anxious to watch, as waves of shadows darken the windows every time the crowd outside leaps to its feet.)

Yet this witty and merrily profane film rackets along on the charismatic brio of Sheen's Clough. Never simply arrogant for its own sake, his bold words are always backed up with solid results as he earns the

loyalty of his players and fans. Master of the acerbic wisecrack, he also raises cheerful provocation to an art form. ("It's Brian Clough uber fucking alles," he blithely tells a TV interviewer on the day he formally takes the reins in Leeds.) Outfitted with a flawless northern accent and an irresistibly sly demeanor, Sheen in marvelous fun to watch throughout. And TV footage of the real Clough at film's end suggest what an incisive performance Sheen has given.

THE DAMNED UNITED ★★★1/2 (out of four) With Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, and Colm Meany. Written by Peer Morgan. From the novel by David Peace. Directed by Tom Hooper. A Sony Classics release. Rated R. 97 minutes. Opens Nov 6.
Watch movie trailer >>>

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.

 

Waddell Creek, Al Fresco

Route One Summer Farm Dinner You’ve been buying their insanely fresh produce for years now at farmers’ markets. Right? So now why not become more familiar with the gorgeous Waddell Creek farmlands of Route One Farms?