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'The Damned United' Focuses on Tensions Not Triumph

Unlike so many triumphant stories in the cannon of American sports movies, "The Damned United" is an English movie that relishes humiliation and disappointment. Its central character, Coach Brian Clough, achieved much success throughout his career. But the film, directed by Tom Hooper from Peter Morgan's script (based on a novel by David Pearce), "is much more interested in the dramatic flameout that disrupted and almost ended his rise to football glory," writes New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott. The film follows Clough's takeover of the celebrated club Leeds United, where Clough struggles to fill the shoes of the departed Don Revie, who leaves Leeds to coach the England national team.

Much of the film focuses on Clough's complex relationship with Revie, which is one of idolatry as much as rivalry. "The two men are a study in temperamental and generational contrasts," writes Scott. "Revie, solid and phlegmatic, is an English bulldog of the old school, while Clough is more like a rooster, crowing and strutting in pursuit of his own celebrity."

The confrontation between these two men reveals not only a battle of machismo, but also the tensions of the social fabric of Britain during the time. "In 'The Damned United' we perceive an angry, tired and polarized Britain, split between old ways and new, between North and South, between Labor and Tory. Football is the mirror and outlet for these resentments, but the movie to its credit (if also to the potential dismay of some fans) does not really bother with what happens on the field. That's a mere diversion from the real drama, which involves power, money and men in suits."

The movie opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles. Trailer.

Read the whole story at New York Times »

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