Monday, 30 March 2009

Excellent view of the Lifde of Brian (Clough)

OK, I know I am biased here – I became a Nottingham Forest fan in the 1980s to go alongside my beloved hometown team Tamworth FC simply BECAUSE I love Brian Clough so much – but I have to say the new film about him, The Damned United, is really very, very good and any football/sports fan will love it.

I had previously read and thoroughly enjoyed the book of the same name (which is an absorbing read but is very dark and often quite depressing) and having seen the Clough family distance themselves from this film I was in two minds about seeing it. But I really hope the Clough family DO actually see it because although the book is slightly ambiguous the movie shows Brian at his very best and is a joy to watch from start to finish.

In case you don’t, know the film centres on two main events in Cloughie's remarkable life – his success and eventual resignation/sacking at Derby and then his bizarre 44 day reign at ‘dirty’ Leeds where he was motivated by his hatred for their title-winning boss Don Revie. Revie stood for everything Cloughie disliked and the tension between the two men when they meet is palbable.

The film as a whole is riveting from the ‘kick off’ and also (like Clough) it is both very funny and very unpredictable.

Cloughie made many mistakes – as Forest fan I know this - the signing of Justin Fashanu anyone? – but he also had the ability to make people walk over hot coals for him and to make the ordinary extraordinary and this film portrays both sides of this character perfectly. And it is perfectly acted too. Michael Sheen (pictured here) is simply brilliant (as he was as Tony Blair in The Queen and The Deal) in the title role and the supporting cast are equally impressive with Timothy Spall’s Peter Taylor and Jim Broadbent as Sam Longson, the Derby chairman especially impressive.

In addition it is also a wonderful evocation of the 1970s. I recall that Leeds side really well (I could have named them without much problem) and the film captures them all very well (even if Johnny Giles is a bit too tall!) but it is more than just the football that rings true. The film is brilliant on the fashion, the language, the cars and the fact that football was a bit of a tuppenny-happenny sport then compared to now (there is a great scene of Cloughie preparing the Derby County dressing room where each player just gets a mangy looking towel, an orange and….an ashtray).

It is as far away from Man United and their masseuses and chefs as well, Billy Davies’ current Nottingham Forest is from the European Cup which Cloughie won twice.

If you are nostalgic for the 70s, love football, love Cloughie and hate Leeds (but can’t exactly remember why!) then this is the movie for you.

Go see.

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