Whilst anticipation of the 2010 World Cup heightens around here every day, it seems there is no better time to shout about the best footie film in recent memory, The Damned United.
Michael Sheen shines as prickly northern football manager Brian Clough in this "based on a true story" type affair adapted for the screen by writer Peter Morgan (Last king of Scotland, The Queen, Frost/Nixon) and helmed by promising new British director Tom Hooper.
The performances here are strong. Honestly, I'd written off Michael Sheen as merely a Tony Blair impersonator, but with Frost/Nixon and now this he's really demonstrated a range and a unique ability for impersonation that makes him practically peerless.
The Damned United isn't really a sports film at all. It is a much more personal story of greed, ambition, success, failure and friendship to which football just happens to be the backdrop. The film has only a few frames of game footage and skips over important matches instead showing us only the final score. I think this lies at the centre of the films strengths whilst also contributing to it's underwhelming distribution and reception. You see, despite the fact a large mainstream audience would have enjoyed this film if they were to ever watch it, it's hard for people to see it as anything other than a sports flick about someone they've never heard of (at least outside of the UK). No matter how many times I offer this one up as a recommendation, I get very few bites. It's this kind of lazy pigeon-holing by the viewing public that leads to so much focus grouped, target marketed remakes of remakes. Quality films like this should really be the bread and butter of cinema. Nothing too art house or experimental yet nothing insulting to your average intellect, just well written and well told stories.
A look at some future projects reveals that writer Peter Morgan was rumoured to have penned the next James Bond film (to be directed by Sam effin Mendes!) though his name now has disappeared from the IMDB credits. He's also writing a new screen adaptation of John Le Carres' Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Director Tom Hooper has recently been announced to direct a new adaptation of John Steinbeck's East of Eden and Michael Sheen has had a part in the next really big 3D film, Tron:Legacy. Shine on you crazy diamond.