Michael Sheen (Tony Blair), Timothy Spall (jowly), Stephen Graham (ginger), Jim Broadbent (inflexible)
What’s it about?
Based on a book of the same name written by David Peace which gives a fictional account of the disastrous 44 days Brian Clough spent as manager of Leeds United in 1974. He won one game out of six, and got fired because everyone hated him. To put his brief reign at Elland Road into context, the film also covers Clough’s success at Derby County where he took The Rams from Division Two obscurity to the pinnacle of Division One in three years.
What’s good about it?
Michael Sheen’s Clough has a splendid nasal, northern accent that only occasional slips into a Welsh twang. And unlike the book, Sheen’s Clough is funny. David Peace’s account is dark, introspective and lays bare Clough’s psychological torment and insecurities while portraying him as a foul-mouthed bully who suffers from thundering alcoholism. The film focuses on Clough’s wit and genius on the football pitch. This might irritate devotees of the book, but given that the book is a fictional account of Clough’s time at Leeds it’s perfectly reasonable for Tom Hooper (director) to use it as a guide, rather than following it religiously. Plus, it’s also a bloody relief that someone has finally made a decent film about football.
What’s bad about it?
Clough’s wife, Barbara, condemned the book and has said the film “is going to be pretty dire”. Leeds United player Johnny Giles sued David Peace for damages in 2006 and won, so newer versions of the book have entire passages missing. This means a film that could’ve been a biographical account of one of football’s most interesting and intelligent men must be taken with a massive pinch of salt.
Lovers of the book will see a different take on a situation they already know intimately and will have to decide if they’re willing to be flexible. People who haven’t read the book will see a charming account of a man who will forever be a football legend, because he was witty and smart in a world dominated by money-grabbing dullards.
When? March 27