The Damned United

This commendably cliché-averse sports movie chronicles the brief, troubled tenure of soccer manager Brian Clough as the leader of Leeds United in the mid-1970s. Working from the book by David Peace, screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) again digs into what has become his dramatic specialty — the duet of dueling egos, rediscovered from recent history. This time it’s the pugnacious Clough and his perennial rival Don Revie, played respectively and excellently by Michael Sheen and Colm Meaney, with fine support from Timothy Spall as Clough’s assistant manager and Jim Broadbent as his dissatisfied boss. The movie’s a little sketchy on the players, but this is obviously not their story anyway. Director Tom Hooper (John Adams) brings uncommon trust for his actors and an eye for atmosphere — particularly all those dreary, rain-soaked English landscapes in which proper footballers do battle.