About nine months ago Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon, with its acclaimed screenplay by Peter Morgan that later received an Oscar nomination, opened in theaters nationwide. This weekend sees the coast-to-coast release of Morgan’s next project – The Damned United, a drama about Brian Clough, the soccer (or, as the Brits put it, football) coach who led Leeds United to some hard-won triumphs. Michael Sheen, who so skilfully brought depth and insight to his portrayal of David Frost in the previous film, plays Clough in this movie. Like him, the rest of the cast are British, and, apart from Colm Meaney, not especially well-known on these shores. The director is Tom Hooper, another Brit who made a considerable impact here with his John Adams miniseries for HBO.
The reviewers have given The Damned United thumbs-ups almost all around, especially for Sheen’s performance; this Associated Press review is representative. But, despite the exponential growth of soccer’s popularity in America since the 1970s, it’s one thing for high schoolers and college students to play it and see it, and another to get them to watch it on the big screen (outside a sports bar, that is). But in any event, it’s proven to be a better advertisement for the game than that long-ago, rather peculiar collaboration between Sly Stallone, John Huston and Pele, Victory.