27 October 2009

The Damned United

Football films, they're never normally very good are they?
If it's not Sean Bean saving the blades in predictable last minute fashion, that piss and wind effort 'Goal', Mean Machine - do us a favour. That other one, Jimmy Grimble, which I've admittedly never even seen but just know it's crap, it's about city, why would I want to sit through that? and Fever Pitch of course, which introduced posh previously non match going dickheads and the post Euro 96 crowd to the prawn sandwich side of football.
So, for me the only time the magic of football (at any level) has been perfectly captured was when Manchester United were beaten by Spurs during Mr Sugden's PE class in Ken Loach's KES.
Or The Granton Star Cause section of The Acid House which was simply crude genius.
So along comes The Damned United, which I've finally got around to watching, based on the novel of the same name by David Peace.
Based on the doomed and shortlived tenure of Brian Clough at Leeds United - Clough, played by the very versatile Michael Sheen who's played Tony Blair on three occasions now, as well as David Frost and even Kenneth Williams. We all know what old big 'ead walked and talked like, and that's a difficult role to pull off, but he did it, and did it well. Along with a stellar support cast of Timothy Spall, Stephen Graham, Jim Broadbent and Colm Meaney.
Fans of Leeds and Don Revie especially could be a little miffed at their former manager's portrayal, whilst he's not shown as the villain of the piece, he's not shown in the greatest of light. But I guess these things are always tough to put down when fact collides with fiction as it does in this film.
Like the epic Red Riding on Channel 4 earlier in the year, also a David Peace adaptation, this period set film looks the business, it must be painstaking to recapture an era which has all but been erased with the sheet metal and plastic seating of the modern stadiums, but they did a grand job of this one. Going back to the magic of football, many scenes were filmed at Chesterfield's Saltergate stadium due to the fact that apart from one stand it's not really been touched since the seventies, this place doubled up for the Baseball Ground, Wembley, Carrow Road and Bloomfield Road, from a personal point of view this place was also the setting of one of the best nights in my football watching life, when my club were promoted to the First Division (Championship) in 1997, it was dark, damp and stank of pies and piss but was miles better than when we won promotion at Wembley the season before last.
The film uses original footage of football matches and crowds, mixed with famous faces playing famous faces, and cleverly adds graphics which show the league tables of the time.
All in all, a really good effort, capturing a time when football was grubby, old tweed covered chairmen were the gaffers, players were dirty, tackles were hard, pitches were soggy and grounds were just that, grounds with atmosphere and buzz and not soulless stadiums where Colin Firth might take his girlfriend for a night out. If only it was still like that now eh? 4/5

No comments:

Post a Comment