A British football bromance of my liking
After the success of Moneyball the other day I turned back to my side of the Atlantic and a sport that is easier for most Europeans to embrace, namely football. To be fair I’m not much more interested in that than in baseball, but at least I get the rules roughly. I don’t follow the British matches they run on TV obviously, but I’d go as far as I’d probably watch how Sweden would do in the World Championship. Provided they’d made it as far as to the semi finals.
The Damned United is a movie “based on a true story” (with the reservations you always have to make in those cases) about the British football manager Brian Clough. Obviously I had never heard of the guy before, but that doesn’t say much since I couldn’t name any British football manager whatsoever apart from the Swede “Svennis”, who had a career in UK some years ago and was so much talked about that even I had to notice. But I assume Clough is famous, at least if you’re to believe what’s said about him in Wikipedia.
Not about football
However there’s no need to read at Wikipedia or to know anything at all about football. Because it isn’t really a film about football. It’s a film about personal pains and growth, about the consequences of excessive cockiness. And above all it’s a movie about relationships.
There are two of them in the movie. The first one is the bromance between Brian and his right-hand man Peter Tailor. The second one is what happens between Brian and Don Revie, who also was a football manager. It’s a relationship that is characterized by competition and hostility and Brian gets so obsessed by it that it puts his bromance at danger.
I have to admit it took me a little while before I could embrace Brain. He had a big mouth, that’s for sure, and I could totally understand why people could find him annoying, tossing out statements such as:
“I’m not saying I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one.”
“We talk about it for twenty minutes and then we decide I was right.” (Answering the question about how he handled player democracy in Derby)
But cocky or not, I sort of got used to him after a while and found myself actually caring or at least being intrigued by the guy. And I’m not alone in this by the way. From the wiki, I learn that they had to hold the memorial ceremony after he died in 2004 at a stadium since 14 000 people wanted to attend.
The movie however ends much earlier, in 1975, and only goes into a brief period of his life, the 44 days when he trained Leeds United (with some backflashes to the years before). It doesn’t go into the darkest places of his life, which included many years of alcoholism.
Gritty but fairly bright
On the whole it’s a fairly bright and cheerful film – as cheerful as it gets when you show Britain in the 70s – gritty, bleak, with a color pallet with different shades of brown and grey.
I liked it and why shouldn’t I? After all it’s directed by Tom Hooper, who also did The King’s Speech, which was on my top 10 list of 2011. Currently he’s finishing an adaptation of the musical Les Misérables, to be realeased late this year. It seems like quite some jump of genre, but considering the quality of the first two movies I’ve seen by him, I’m hopeful it will be a good one.
The Damned United (Tom Hooper, UK, 2009) My rating: 4/5