Seldom has the study of a man's fall from grace been handled with the skill it has been in "THE DAMNED UNITED." The man, Brian Clough, has had deep-seeded anger towards the Leeds United, since a past humiliation deal to him while managing a Division 2 football club in a match against them wherein his team lost, and the Leeds United Manager, Don Revie doesn't acknowledge his existence. But, over time, Clough brought his team up into Division 1, and when Revie is pulled away to manage the English World Cup team, the opportunity to manage "THE DAMNED UNITED" is too appealing to turn down. The drama and "some" humor which follows over the next 44 days of Clough's career, is gripping and sure to impress even those with zero knowledge of sports. "THE DAMNED UNITED" is an intelligent, complicated feat of storytelling, wherein most of its "real-life" characters are dealing with conflict. The conflict is both real and self-inflicted, but never-the-less impacting on everyone involved.
While never as funny as "NORTH DALLAS 40," both films stand out among sports-themed films by the way in which they deal with the lives of those working in the sports arena, with more focus on the lives off the field than on it. Sheen(FROST VS NIXON)continues to amaze viewers with his complete ownership of the character he's portraying. It doesn't matter how much he looks or sounds like the real Clough does. What matters is he'll have the audience convinced he's a dead-ringer without ever seeing Clough in person! Sheen is just that good! Colm Meaney, has long been underappreciated, much in the same way Albert Finney had been for a ten year period leading up to his rebirth in "CIDER HOUSE RULES." Meaney leaves the viewer only wanting to see him more! Impeccably directed and acted, "THE DAMNED UNITED" is certainly one of the best films of 2009!
SONY has provided the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio for this AVC MPEG-4 1080p blu-ray release. While the authentic setting of the film is typically somber, muted, and rainy(ahh....England!), the image is still stunning. It captures everything perfectly, and the detail is flawless. The muted and consistently gray atmosphere contrasts powerfully with the vibrant outfits of the sports powerbrokers pushing through their agendas. Regardless of how bright or dark a given scene may be, the level of depth achieved is always impressive, and showcases exactly what a great transfer should look like!
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is less impressive. It's certainly not a bad mix. However, in spite of a generally decent, although never aggressive environment, the dialogue can be overshadowed by music, and this is a dialogue-heavy film! Minor ambient effects lend a slightly engaging atmosphere, however, sport sequences are completely lacking in the sound design area, never placing the audience "inside" the game. Rather, one can't help but feel distant from the on-screen action, instead of being a part of it, during these scenes. It's certainly not a dreadful mix. However, it's disappointing to find this sound mix never achieves the kind of brilliance reached by its video counterpart.
In addition to 1080p trailers for numerous other SONY blu-ray titles, deleted scenes(1080p) with optional director's commentary, a terrific featurette, "THE CHANGING GAME: FOOTBALL IN THE SEVENTIES," offers great interviews and notable, historic footage, helping to define English football for those, lacking knowledge around it. Other featurettes, as well as a great commentary with Sheeh, the director and producer, are worth checking out.