I don't like football. Because it's boring. And because it's not rugby. It's a good thing then that The Damned United doesn't have much football in it. It could really have been about anything. Michael Sheen plays Brian Clough, a football manager who turns a lowly club into champions and then takes a job managing his rival's team. It's this rivalry (between Brian Clough and Don Revie if you know who these people are, I don't) that makes up the meat of the film. Michael Sheen is brilliant as the ambitious but sympathetic protagonist, whose bitter determination leads to his downfall. It builds to one of those climactic conversations that I've written about before - the sort of conversation that leaves one man broken, like they've had a fight with big guns. And you're not forced to watch any football. You see a few fights and a few goals. That's it. But what you do get is a sense of the sport as a lifestyle, watching these characters giving their lives to these teams and their history. I'll probably never understand that.
It's also worth mentioning how well the film is directed. Tom Hooper gives every frame has a real sense of style. It's not just sticking the camera in odd places, it's planning ever square inch of the frame. One of the most impressive shots is Brian Clough standing in his office, with the shadows of a screaming crowd coming through a window and falling onto the wall. He stands right in the middle of the frame, small and over-powered by the fans he his serving. There's also nice moving diagrams that handily explain what's going on, useful if you don't know the history of Derby County and Leeds United. Which I don't. I'm not even sure where those places are.
So, a good film about sport, because its not about sport.