Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Damned United (2009) Review

Directed by: Tom Hooper

Screenplay by: Peter Morgan

Cinematography: Ben Smithard

The Damned United is a light and enjoyable British film which tells the story of Brian Clough’s short-lived reign as Leeds United manager in 1974. Adapted from David Pearce’s original novel, Tom Hooper (director of Kings Speech) delivers a film that is both fresh and entertaining. The film tells the story of Brian Clough who along with his longtime friend and colleague Peter Taylor, took flailing football club Derby County from the bottom of the second division to winning the first division in England. Clough then signs as manager for longtime rival club Leeds United but lasts no longer than 44 days before being sacked. I was under the impression the film would focus predominantly on Clough’s tenure as Leeds manager, however that seemed to take only a portion of the brisk 90 odd minute film. Instead the narrative jumps between Clough’s days as Derby manager and his arrival and demise and Leeds. This format of telling the story as well as conveying the context and backstory concurrently was, I thought particularly clever. However it did result in me feeling that I watched Clough’s reign as Derby manager with a little stint as Leeds rather than the 44 days at Leeds with a little bit of context as Derby manager. Having said this, it did not detract from the entertainment value of the film.

Two things throughout the film stood out for me as being very good; the first being the performances and the characters.

Michael Sheen (The Queen and Frost/Nixon) delivered a truly memorable performance as the arrogant and chirpy manager, Brian Clough. Clough started out as the eager and ambitious Derby manager, who in the space of 45 minutes became the arrogant and brazen manager who ranked himself, “within the top 1” managers in the country. As the audience I found myself supporting and sympathising with Clough. However as his attitude became ever more brazen and overly confident, I found myself feeling betrayed as a viewer. I had invested into him as a character yet his arrogance had led to me feeling a lack of sympathy for him after his sacking. This, I believe is a testimony to the performance of Sheen. Despite his somewhat screen-friendly charm, he managed to convey the overwhelming insolence of his character which was critical for this film to be believable and have any merit beyond some Saturday night fun.

The second thing I found enjoyable was the somewhat distinct ‘look’ of the film. The combination of the cinematography and the treatment of the film gave it a somewhat distinct approach that I’ve come to appreciate with British films. Hollywood tends to produce films that all look vaguely similar in some way. However with the Damned United there was a unique feel to visuals which added a quirkiness to the film.

Interestingly there was very little on field football action. The film focused on the drama that surrounded the games and the interaction between Clough and his team’s boardroom. I would have preferred some more on field action as well as more weight given to the players characters. They seemed to look largely unhappy and generally mute. Greater interaction with Clough would have added another dynamic that I’d like to have seen unfold.

The Damned United is an understated and enjoyable film. Some great performances and great cinematography bring this film to life. Unfortunately the story rambles along without much of a climax. There could have been a bit more football shown and bit more of surprise but nonetheless, its worth a watch.

 

Plot Development 6.5/10

Characters/Performances 8/10

Cinematography 7.5/10

 

Quality Rating 73%

Entertainment Value 7.5/10

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The Love Bombs Festival Review

 

This week saw the Love Bombs film festival being held here in Cape Town. The festival is three short films ranging from 17 to 35 minutes created and produced by a local church, Joshua Generation and made entirely by volunteers. Three up and coming local directors co-wrote and directed each short entirely in their own capacity and spare time. If nothing else, the LoveBombs festival has shown that nothing is beyond the capabilities of the willing and dedicated. Each film in their own right was a work of art.

To critique a film that is made on a zero budget, by non-professionals and entirely by volunteers to the same standards as one would a Hollywood feature would be unfair. Thus this review will not hold the shorts up against mainstream films but rather assess each on their own merit.

The Second Day is the shortest of the three, written and directed by Howard Fyvie. Set in the (science) fictional Salem Prison (presumably representing Hell) it tells the story of inmates having to fight in a gladiator styled event in order to earn their freedom. One inmate challenges the resident gladiator to a fight to the death – something presumably no one has done before and lived to tell the tale.

The film was made incredibly well. The makeup, costumes and work that went into creating a ‘hell’ environment was top notch, leagues above the zero budget category the film finds itself in. The performances of the main character (2nd Adam) and the prison guards were chilling, something straight out of a Lord of the Rings film. If anything, the film let me down in that it ended too soon. I wanted to watch more. I felt the buildup was executed brilliantly but then we reached the climax and the end within what felt like 30 seconds. If anything I would have appreciated more of a reaction and conclusion, but otherwise the film truly was a indie filmmaking masterpiece.

iBalaclava directed by Nevil Sandama and the longest of the three was a complete surprise. From watching the trailer it was the one I was least anticipating but after the evening it wast the one which impressed me the most. It was for me by far the best written piece. There was a real sense of narrative unfolding throughout and it benefitted from the extra 15 minutes over the other two. The performances of Zolani and Bongani in particular were stellar. Believable, engaging and heart wrenching all at the same time. The pacing of the film was particularly well done with a solid 3 act structure which led to a climax that was seriously hard hitting. In some regard I would have preferred a slightly softer and subtle look to the film in favour of the harsh contrast it had as well as more use of a soundtrack in the tender moments, which would have elevated the emotional impact, but despite these minor preferences the film was brilliant.

The final of the three, The Prodigal was what I was most looking forward to. Written and Directed by MJ Phillip it tells the story of a teenage boy thrust into turmoil over his sexuality and the rejection of those closest to him. The Prodigal was more of an exploration in the medium of film than a narrative. The direction was handled delicately and with subtlety which is what I appreciated most about this short. Whilst it didn’t have the strongest narrative, it was also written very well. The performances by Kyle SJ Peter and Howard Fyvie were extremely good, especially considering they are not professional actors. I loved the use of a dual narrative which served as a metaphor for the inner workings of the main character’s life. If anything I think this film would have benefitted from a slightly more spectacular climax, raising the intensity and stakes of the narrative.

If I had to, I would describe the Love Bombs festival as three films that stand on their own two feet, each boasting very impressive aspects in their own right. Very enjoyable and brilliantly made they are a great indication of the talent that surrounds us.

Skyfall Trailer

Below is the trailer for the new 007, Skyfall set for release later this year.

It looks epic….until halfway. The villain isn’t convincing. Bond needs more Bourne and less, Bond. Make it believable and plausible. The action does look great but sadly I fear the story will disappoint.