The Damned United is presented in its original 1.85:1 ratio and encoded using the MPEG4-AVC codec into 1080P.
Sony Pictures have done a pretty good job on the video presentation. You get a really good transfer that has some excellent contrast on offer as well as excellent clarity. The blacks are solid and the levels of detail are high. Some of the darker scenes for example and the rain washed football matches feel incredibly authentic.
The image retains a filmic grain which helps but it does feel very much like a digital image that is suited to the smaller screen. It's not a film that can be described as cinematic but that's not a criticism. There is some digital noise in there but thankfully there are no other video nasties to report of or anything that interferes with the image too much.
The colour scheme and the backdrops are spot on. The colours have been filtered to accentuate the blues, greys and muted greens. The props and the backdrops are very much belonging to the time and the whole thing feels like it comes straight out of the seventies.
Finally the blu-ray disc comes as a Region B release but is in fact Region Free. You can be safe in the knowledge that this disc will play in most blu-ray players.
There are two audio tracks on the blu-ray but the main one is the English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The other option is an English Descriptive Service in 5.1
It's an engaging soundtrack and there is plenty of ambience about it. The football chants, the floor banging and the resonance of the football stadiums all come across in convincing fashion.
The dialogue is crisp and clear and it's anchored to the front centre. Nevertheless there is a good front sound stage presence and there is a lovely tonal balance to it all. Bass and low end support is not forgotten but neither is it overpowering.
Ever so often the film is interspersed with highlight footage and the audio is of the original source material. It's all been cleaned up and this mainly constitutes of the football commentary. Otherwise there is little wrong with the soundtrack on offer here.
Finally the score done by Robert Lane is one to be commended. It is full of quirky tunes and an annoyingly catchy riff. It accompanies the film perfectly and the timing of it really adds to the whole vibe that the film gives off. You really do get a feel good factor about the whole thing.
The blu-ray disc comes with a healthy amount of extras promoting the disc into being a strong package. All the extras are presented in 1080P High Definition and are comprised of higher than average quality content. The audio commentary is excellent and recommended as the pick of the bunch.
Commentary - Tom Hooper, Michael Sheen and Andy Harries get together to add a very cohesive and convincing commentary to the whole film. What strikes you straight away is how informative the whole commentary is. The three of them have plenty of intelligent comments to make about the film, the football and everything surrounding it. There's optional English Commentary subtitles if you want them but this audio commentary is certainly a cut above the rest.
Deleted Scenes - There are a total of nine deleted scenes for you to have a look at and there is also Tom Hooper's commentary on each of them. None of this is filler stuff and they could all have easily been included in the film.
Cloughisms - This is footage of Michael Sheen when he does the interview scenes used in the film. He never lets his guard down and you can see how he totally transforms himself into character. Once again there is a Tom Hooper commentary available should you want to listen to it.
Perfect Pitch: The Making of The Damned United - (16mins 26secs) - This one is very much a bread and butter cast and crew behind the scenes feature. It's well made but it's no less than what you would expect.
Creating Clough: Michael Sheen takes on 'Old Big 'Ead' - (10mins 17secs) - Michael Sheen expands on how he went about taking on the part. His dedication to understand Clough's character is clear to see and it certainly takes a professional approach of the highest order to be able to carry it off.
Remembering Brian - (9mins 34secs) - Simon Clifford, Michael Sheen, John McGovern, Eddie Gray and Austin Mitchell all talk and reminisce about Brian Clough. It's a thoughtful look back at the man but the most interesting are the comments from the players that played under him. Interspersed between the footage you get pop ups of some of his achievements.
The Changing Game: Football in the Seventies - (19mins 12secs) - Eddie Gray, Gordon McQueen, Austin Mitchell, David Silver and Dr Jon Dart talk about how the game has changed over the decades. A lot is spoken about Don Revie as well as Brian Clough. These two absolutely detested each other so it's good to hear the views of some of the people that were involved with them. You also get to understand the deep levels of passion that existed in the game back then.
Trailers - These are simply five theatrical trailers of new upcoming films.
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The Damned United is a film about Brian Clough and his embarrassingly short tenure at Leeds United Football Club in 1974. If you grew up in the sixties and seventies you'll love this film and even if you didn't you'll still enjoy it nonetheless. It's a great football film and has an authentic aura about it.
The film might centre around the 44 days of mayhem Brian Clough brought to Elland Road but it is so much more than that. True it's not the definitive story about him but then it never sets out to be a biopic.
This guy took Derby County from out of nowhere to the very top of the league in a very short space of time. Aside from his failure with Leeds he then went on to confound his critics by achieving wonders with Nottingham Forest. There was a certain amount of magic surrounding Clough and the film does its best in trying to get across the tormented genius within him.
In short there are basically two things that set this film apart. One is that it is about Brian Clough 'the finest manager that the England football team never had' and secondly it has Michael Sheen playing him. Michael Sheen has totally transformed himself into the character so much so that you will believe that it is Clough himself; absolutely outstanding.
Brian Clough was an outspoken and opinionated man. He was difficult to argue against, wasn't shy in stepping forward and his arrogance clearly stemmed from his success. Beyond that he was an immensely complex character and his interaction with others in the football fraternity more often than not bordered on chaos. Thankfully and quite wisely the film does not dwell on any of this and sticks with his more entertaining side.
If truth be told then this film is probably better suited to the small screen rather than as a cinematic presentation. The blu-ray disc has some solid video aspects to it nonetheless. The whole thing appears authentically put together and feels like it has come straight out of the seventies. The audio is also a worthy accompaniment to the video, so either way you get a very balanced blu-ray disc here coupled with a very good extras package.
In hindsight Brian Clough was actually ahead of his time, his approach to the game and interaction with the media changed the face of football. I'll go one step further in saying that not making him England manager was a missed opportunity. The England Football Team would probably have been far more successful under him than it has been since. I'm sure that thought will have a few of you pondering and raise a few debates about what might have been...
In the meantime there is little to ponder about here. The Damned United is an excellent film and is probably one of the best football films for a long time. Fans of the game will love it but it's also a movie that will engage with anyone who cares to watch it. It's definitely a film worth watching and one to add to your collection.
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