Based on the book Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express by Robert Gallagher, The Express follows the inspirational life of college football hero Ernie Davis (Brown), the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Following his draft by the NFL, tragedy struck the star athlete and he was never able to take the professional field. But his tale would forever change the face of professional sports. Raised in poverty in Pennsylvania coal-mining country, Davis overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to become an unstoppable running back for the Syracuse Orangemen. Under the guidance of coach Ben Schwartzwalder (Quaid)—a hard-nosed surrogate father with an obsession for winning a national championship—Davis would develop from an impressive high-school athlete into a legend. While everyone agreed Ernie Davis was a miracle player, few thought this quiet young man would become an icon for the burgeoning civil rights movement dividing America in the early 1960s. Refusing to play by the unspoken racist rules of the day, Davis broke through one barrier after another to alter the way fans looked at men of his color. Though leukemia struck the player a terrible blow in the prime of his life, his spirit soared when most would crumble. Forcing his bullheaded coach to reexamine a life lived in color-based privilege, Davis would join the ranks of black pioneers who inspired a movement that smashed barriers on and off the playing field. (Gary Reber)
Special features include commentary with Director Gary Fleder; three deleted scenes with optional commentary by Fleder (HD 07:37); 50th Anniversary footage of the 1959 Syracuse National Championship (SD 16:23); four featurettes: Making Of The Express (HD 13:57), Making History: The Story Of Ernie Davis (HD 13:18), Inside The Playbook: Shooting The Football Games (HD 07:00), and From Hollywood To Syracuse: The Legacy Of Ernie Davis (HD 05:17); and BD-Live interactivity.
The 2.38:1 1080p VC-1 picture quality is excellent and stylized to enhance the feeling of the 1950s and 60s. Colors are rendered to look natural overall, with excellent fleshtone rendering. Contrast is excellent, with blacks that are deep and solid and shadows that are nicely rendered. Resolution is excellent, with finely resolved textures and facial expressions. Overall, this is a terrific-looking picture that perfectly complements the telling of this historic period in football and in America. (Gary Reber)
The DTS-HD Master Audio™ 5.1-channel soundtrack is nicely produced, but dialogue is heavily ADR-produced with poor spatial integration. Instead, dialogue is quite forward sounding. Field action is loud, with exaggerated sound effects, though, the treatment does add to the excitement of playing football. The soundfield is often aggressively enveloping and holosonic®, with sound effects directionalized all around. This is a very forward-sounding soundtrack, and at times the SPL is extremely loud. Both music and sound effects are activity and effectively engaged in the surrounds. The jazzy music score and other orchestrations are well recorded. Bass extension is deep and powerful, often below 25 Hz. This is an exciting soundtrack, especially during tense scenes and football action on the field, with crowd noise enveloping the soundfield. (Gary Reber)