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Blu-Ray : Recommended
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Release Date: February 23rd, 2010 Movie Release Year: 2009

The Damned United

Overview -

From the Academy Award-nominated writer of The Queen and Frost/Nixon, The Damned United is based on the incredible true story of Brian Clough, one of England’s greatest soccer managers and his 44 controversial days at the helm of reigning champs Leeds United. Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and Twilight Saga: New Moon) triumphs as Clough starring alongside a winning ensemble cast that includes Timothy Spall (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), Colm Meaney (Layer Cake) and Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince). This inspiring and humorous sports drama is about the power of friendship in the face of adversity and the stubborn will of one man to play by his own rules.

Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Region Free
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Special Features:
Release Date:
February 23rd, 2010

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


'The Damned United' tells the incredible story of a man given a once in a lifetime opportunity and royally screwing it up. Of course, the film is also a fictional account of Brian Clough, considered one of the greatest football managers in England, and his very short reign as manager of Leeds United. Based on the David Peace novel of the same name, I like to think the story, too, is about a passionate and determined man who finally captures his white whale. But he makes the mistake of wanting to retrain the wild beast and eliminate all traces of its unruly nature. Making matters worse, he is never once polite about it or even cares to ask the creature what it wants in return. To me, that's the real pleasure of watching this sports drama from the makers of 'The Queen' and 'Frost/Nixon.'

When Leeds United manager Don Revie (Colm Meaney) is hired to take the England team to the next World Cup, he is ironically replaced by his most vocal critic, Brian Clough (Michael Sheen). But before showing up on his first day of work, Clough decides to do an interview for Yorkshire Television where he once again voices his disparaging opinion of the club and their former coach. By the time he finally arrives, the chairmen and players already feel on edge about Clough's presence. He further offends the team by famously telling them to throw their medals and trophies in the garbage because they've never won a game fairly. After back to back losses at the start of the season, Clough's position leading a championship team came to a close after only 44 days.

Credit must be given to director Tom Hooper ('John Adams') for this well-made film, working from a very well-structured script by Peter Morgan ('The Other Boleyn Girl,' 'The Last King of Scotland'). Carefully interweaving the weight of past events upon the present, Hooper does an excellent job of keeping flashback sequences in logical order and not letting them lapse into some kind of gimmick. In going back and forth, we learn a great deal about Clough's personality -- the talented athlete who knew how to make champions out of underdogs -- and we see a man rather than a run-of-the-mill account of a sports legend. It is all very well done as we witness the destructive nature of a hurt ego, an individual driven by something other than the simple goal of winning.

Michael Sheen is absolutely terrific and convincing. Aside from being a domineering but sparkly vampire in 'New Moon,' his last few roles have been very impressive and brilliant indeed, leaving little to know it's the same actor in each movie. One minute, he is the werewolf Lucian in the 'Underworld' series, and the next, he's the prime minister of England during a shocking tragedy ('The Queen') or interviewing President Richard Nixon post Watergate ('Frost/Nixon'). Here, he's fascinating and captivating in making Clough a man who earns our sympathy in spite of his hotheaded and arrogant disposition. In 'The Damned United,' the renowned manager's pride and self-satisfaction gets the best of him, but Sheen keeps us invested in the consequences of his damned stubbornness.

I've read about the Clough family's dissatisfaction with Peace's retelling of events, and they didn't much care for the idea of a film adaptation either -- to the point of snubbing a private screening. However, the novel is, and always has been, a dramatization of a flawed individual whose arrogance serves him well in certain situations but becomes his undoing in others. And what Hooper and his production team have constructed is more than a simple account of a legendary football manager and his short-lived reign atop a championship club. While not entirely accurate of the controversy surrounding the incident, the film is a well-told drama about pride and hurt egos clouding better judgments. With Sheen at the center, 'The Damned United' is great entertainment about a determined personality who turns out to be his own worst enemy.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'The Damned United' debuts on Blu-ray with a Region Free BD50 disc and housed in the standard blue keepcase. Viewers are greeted with a Sony promo of Blu-ray titles and a series of other previews before usual menu of options shows on screen.

Video Review


'The Damned United' makes its Blu-ray debut with good marks. Its rough and aged appearance will have to work hard at warming up to viewers because the picture often looks nothing like what we'd expect from high definition. However, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1) displays the deliberate look created by the filmmakers and makes for an enjoyable presentation. Contrast is greatly restrained, with only slight gradational differences in the grayscale. Black levels are significantly affected by this with limited resolution, to the point of almost looking gray in some scenes. Surprisingly, delineation holds it together, although shadows are terribly murky. Flesh tones, too, habitually appear pale and sickly. Only thing which serves as a reminder that you're watching HD is a strong color palette and a well-defined image. Primaries are rendered accurately, particularly red, while fine object and textural details are distinct and in focus. Despite not looking like much, the freshly-minted transfer is clean and puts on a good show.

Audio Review


The film also arrives with a very pleasing Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that never overwhelms viewers, but it works for the subject matter. Being a drama, the design is heavily focused in the front with strong acoustics and clean dialogue reproduction. Dynamic range feels robust and expansive in the few scenes of soccer action though it is hardly put to the test at any particular point in the movie. The subwoofer isn't given much of a workout -- not that it would be expected -- yet the low-end is present throughout to provide some depth. Rear activity is reserved for minor atmospherics during sports events, and they don't ever really envelop or engage the audience much. While the lossless mix doesn't really impress in any significant way, it gets the job done with good attention on character interaction.

Special Features


This Blu-ray edition of 'The Damned United' comes with the same selection of supplements as its DVD counterpart. It's an attractive collection of content exploring both the movie and the real-life events that inspired it.

  • Audio Commentary - Director Tom Hooper, producer Andy Harries, and Michael Sheen sit together for this insightful chat covering various aspects of the film. All three men are given equal opportunity to share their thoughts about the story and developing drama from history. There are plenty of points made about the technical details in the production which are revealing as well as some comments on creative decisions made for thematic effect to keeps things interesting. Overall, the commentary track is an easy listen for those who enjoyed the film and wish to learn about the production.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 3 min) - With optional commentary from the director, these deleted scenes were obviously removed for time, but each one is seriously worth watching as they all add to the Clough character greatly.
  • Cloughisms (HD, 5 min) - This is a series of footage shots taken of Sheen as Brian Clough later used throughout the film. They all come with optional commentary from the director.
  • Perfect Pitch: The Making of 'The Damned United' (HD, 16 min) - With interviews from cast, crew and some notable figures spliced in, this EPK-style piece focuses on the performances, football, and a few of the themes explored in the film. It's nothing wholly exciting or informative but somewhat entertaining.
  • Creating Clough: Michael Sheen Takes on 'Old Big 'Ead' (HD, 10 min) - Sheen is given a moment to talk about his performance as Brian Clough and shares his opinions on the legendary manager.
  • Remembering Brian (HD, 10 min) - A short look at the real-life Brian Clough and the legacy he left behind with archival footage interspersed throughout. The compilation of interviews from cast, crew and the people who know him personally is fairly entertaining and good watch for fans of the game.
  • The Changing Game: Football in the Seventies (HD, 19 min) - Probably the real highlight of the entire package as viewers learn about the playing style of Leeds United during Don Revie's reign. The detailed and informative doc looks at the tough and forceful games encouraged by Revie as oppose to what Brian Clough introduced with an emphasis on style and talent. Interviews and vintage footage are used to also comment on how the game differs from today's matches.
  • Trailers (HD) - Previews include 'Broken Embraces,' 'An Education,' 'The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day,' 'Sugar,' 'It Might Get Loud,' 'Moon,' 'Rudo Y Cursi,' 'Soul Power,' 'Coco Before Chanel,' 'Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season,' 'Michael Jackson's This Is It,' 'A River Runs Through It,' 'Rocky Balboa,' and 'The Natural.'

Based on the David Peace novel, which is itself inspired by Brian Clough's short controversial reign over Leeds United, 'The Damned United' is a surprisingly good drama about more than just the legendary football manager. With Michael Sheen's terrific performance at the center and Tom Hooper's strong direction, the film is an entertaining story about hurt egos clouding better judgment. The Blu-ray comes with a strong video, good audio, and a nice collection of supplements. Fans will be happy with the presentation. Recommended.