Friday, November 20, 2009

The Damned United (2009) – Review

The Damned United is a very mixed film. The filmmaking technically is very engaging. Tom Hooper and his D.P. Ben Smithard have seamlessly combined the look of the archive footage with what they shot for the film. The film itself feels like it is from the late 60s early 70s. Peter Morgan’s dialogue (be it accurate or not to what Brian Clough actually said) plays well and it is performed quite well by Michael Sheen. The story of the rise and fall of Clough is intriguing (maybe only to soccer fans). And yet with everything seemingly working, something it not right. The film does not hold the viewer’s attention, which can be narrowed down to placing the blame on pacing or narrative structure. Here, the culprit is the latter. The film is organized around jumping back and forth between Clough’s career leading up to being manager at Leeds United and actually being manager. Take 1974 to be the present. The film shows something in the present, and then comments on it by showing the past. For example: Brian Clough is arrogant… cut to the past – Clough and company do wonders with Derby explaining why he has a large ego. While an interesting way to approach the material, this film likely would have worked far better had it run in a linear fashion actually showing the rise and fall, instead of showing that the fall is imminent if not already happening right from the start. The film plays a bit like a gangster film, in that the hero (or anti-hero if you will) starts from meager beginnings only to rise to prominence, becomes boastful, and comes to find an untimely end. Brian Clough does not seem likable, but a credit to Hooper’s direction and Sheen’s performance the audience cheers and supports him even so. If not for the film’s structure, it would be one of the better sports films in recent years and a fine character piece as well. Timothy Spall is also good in the film. Overall the film is certainly worth the time of soccer fans as it captures the spirit of the game perfectly. Cinema fans should also enjoy it for its aesthetic accomplishments. Be that as it may, narrative structure is maybe the most important ingredient in what makes a great film, and The Damned United is found wanting. 6/10

No comments:

Post a Comment