Wednesday 26 January 2011


(Tom Hooper, 2009)

More bromance than character study, with Peter Morgan's script decisively fudging the darkly alcoholic core of David Peace's intense novel and Michael Sheen adding a strange edge of camp to his portrayal of Brian Clough, what finally seals the mediocrity of Hooper's film is its inability to disguise its relatively low budget.
A back and forth time structure between Clough's glorious rise and inevitable fall makes it all a bit too dramatically predictable, and the football is given far too short shrift: the actors playing the Stars of the famous "Dirty" Leeds team of the 70s are too old, too fat, and never remotely convincing as professional athletes; and the brief snatches of games we are shown are violent pantomimes, lacking any of the beauty that Clough so admired in the sport. None of the players is granted a personality beyond sullenness and barely concealed contempt, anyway.
Hooper has an irritating penchant for gimmicky compositions when he isn't sticking to the resolutely symmetrical, but he does conjure some visually impressive scenes from the material and the grim atmosphere of mid-70s Yorkshire - all cigarette smoke and brown sauce - is vividly captured. The films strongest element is a fine cast of British and Irish character players surrounding Sheen, however, from Timothy Spall as the long-suffering Peter Taylor to Colm Meaney and Jim Broadbent as antagonists of different stripes.
Damningly, all of the best scenes and lines in the script come from Clough himself, and you can watch many of them on YouTube. Neithe Morgan nor Sheen can improve on the man they seek to portray, which is perhaps how it should be.

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