x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The Damned United

A football story based on Brian Clough's time with Leeds United.

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Football in England in the 1970s was a place of big egos, terrible hairstyles and even worse fashions, if this account of Brian Clough's brief tenure as the manager of Leeds United is anything to go by. A series of flashbacks recount how the talented and abrasive Clough, aided by his undervalued deputy Peter Taylor, earned the Leeds job through making middling teams into winning sides - and how those same qualities prompted the player revolt that eventually led to his sacking. The characters and the general scenarios depicted in The Damned United are real enough but, like the book by David Peace on which the movie is based, this is a fictionalised representation of what could have happened. Peace was seven at the time Clough was in charge of Leeds United. This fictionalisation process inevitably ratchets up the conflict and drama and just as inevitably offends those who were actually there. One of the characters sued for libel (and settled after a script revision) and Clough's widow boycotted the film. Recreating the 1970s through music and - shudder - fashion is a challenge the movie doesn't quite meet, especially when a television series such as Life on Mars has already done it better. Michael Sheen not only bears an uncanny resemblance to the young Clough but he also puts in a compelling performance to help save what could have been a truly dreadful film.