THE EXPRESS (Blu-ray Edition)|
Universal Studios | 2008 | 130 mins | Rated PG | Jan 20, 2009
Written by David Hillyer
January 15, 2009
The Express is based on the story of Ernie Davis, the first black man to win the Heisman Trophy in NCAA Football history. Following in Jim Brown's footsteps, Ernie Davis played for Syracuse University in the late 1950's. He had a stellar career at Syracuse and was signed by the NFL's Cleveland Browns. Sadly his life was cut short by leukemia before he ever played a down in the NFL.
In many ways, The Express is another version of Rudy, but the comparison really is unfair to both movies. In many ways, The Express is better. I'm sure some people will see it as a “black version of Rudy”, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The story of Ernie Davis is far bigger than being the 'best black football player'. He was even a better man.
Though the blatant prejudice environment of 60 years ago can be a little shocking for 2009 sensibilities, this movie gives us an opportunity to reflect on our own thoughts and prejudices when we look at someone different than us.
Much of The Express seems to be spent detailing the racial tension and lack of diversity in 1959 Syracuse with the focus point being Ernie Davis. Some of the extras certainly drive the point home with interviews of current Syracuse students and Alumni. The Express is an interesting and at times profound commentary on the late 1950's culture, but the movie is really more about a great football player and man.
The tragedy of it all was we never got to see Ernie Davis play against the best of the best. We only got to see all too short glimpses of the glory of his life. But it is good to hear the impact his story has had on so many others.
The film is show with a generally drab color pallet. The faces and personalities of the characters far outshine any set or clothing design. However the cinematography, particularly the lighting, is almost like another character on the screen. There are some scenes where the lighting is almost poetic. It tells part of the story of what's going on inside Ernie Davis' head. Any film student will learn a lot from this movie.
It's interesting to note that the menu system is identical to Friday Night Lights (another football film from Universal). Obviously someone at Universal has a template. With the advanced features of Blu-Ray I would think a little bit of creativity is in order but apparently not on The Express.
Deleted Scenes with optional Commentary by director Gary Fleder (8 min. SD) includes 3 deleted scenes. The scenes are not accessible individually from a menu however they are chapter encoded so you can skip to the one you want to see. The scenes are mostly character development, and while they are good scenes, they didn't really add anything additional to the film.
50th Anniversary of the 1959 Syracuse National Championship (17 min, SD) interviews former players on the 1959 Syracuse team about their historic rise to the 1959 National Championship. This is a fascinating documentary with footage from many of the regular season games and the championship. Syracuse was known by some as having the #1 and #2 teams in the country because their second string players were just as good as the first string.
Making of The Express (14 min HD) interviews the director, his crew and the actors about the filming process. It is a bit more than the standard studio piece and they even go into some of the reasons for the washed out colors.
Making History: The Story of Ernie Davis (14 min HD) an excellent piece with interviews from players, family, students and alumni. This type of extra should be required for any “based on a true story” movie, especially sports movies.
Inside the Playbook: Shooting the Football Games (7 min HD) goes into detail about some of the plays used in the film. It even has a telestrator to show some of the plays.
From Hollywood to Syracuse: The Legacy of Ernie Davis (5 min HD) interviews current Syracuse students and alumni and various other notable people about the lasting legacy of Ernie Davis. This could easily be a diversity and recruitment film about Syracuse.
Feature Commentary with Director Gary Fleder – is better than most commentaries. He spends a lot of time talking about the process and the lengths they went to so they wouldn't have the usual sports movie clichés.