Can I just say one thing about Michael Sheen?

Well, multiple, but here we go.

It’s unbelievable the transformation he undergoes from character to character. Part of it is probably Peter Morgan writing (this is their third collaboration I’ve watched, which makes me wonder if there are any more movies they’ve done together (wikipedia lists five total)), but Sheen is terrific. I saw him first in Frost/Nixon as David Frost, the TV personality in over his head against Richard Nixon and his ability to talk out of any relevant issue. I saw him next in The Queen (I know, this came out first, but I didn’t watch it until recently). I have to watch it again, but he was Tony Blair, in a nutshell.

Now he’s Brian Clough, a football manager who had a short lived tenure as the manager of Leeds United. It all of six weeks, in which he never was able to connect with his players. He was more concerned with 1) getting the hooliganism out of the team, and 2) finding ways of upstaging Don Revie, who never properly acknowledged him when they first encountered each other on the football field. Revie was the manager of Leeds United prior to becoming the manager for the England football team (which lasted all of three years as well before Revie went into obscurity).

Upstaging Revie was Clough’s drive for much of his managerial career, as the movie depicts. Prior to coaching Leeds, he was the coach of Darby County, a smaller school that had been relegated to the bottom of the Second Division. After a thorough whitewashing by Leeds, Clough gets personal. Along with his assistant Peter Taylor, they set off to sign several players with experience and youth, hoping to gain advantage over Leeds. Darby wins the Second Division title, which sets the stage for their rise in the First Division (after another beating from Leeds).

Clough is an interesting character indeed. He’s friendly enough, but ultra competitive, and often prone to speaking whatever comes to his mind. He has his own way of doing things, which works at Darby, but fails to work at Leeds (the players repeat several times that Revie often has dossiers set up for each team they face). It’s Clough’s mouth that gets him and Taylor fired from Darby, even after they get the club to the European Cup.

The movie is told in flash back, which is done to build up specific sequences in the present day (Clough’s tenure at Leeds). It works quite well thematically and narrative wise. The focus is more on the backstage drama than on the soccer action, but the latter, when done with the actors, is filmed well (some archival footage was used from actual matches in the 60s and 70s). All in all, the movie is filmed well.

This is definitely one to see for Michael Sheen though. This only adds to his great resume.