The Express (2008)
The Express (2008)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 10 min.

Release Date: October 10th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Gary Fleder Actors: Rob Brown, Dennis Quaid, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Omar Benson Miller, Charles S. Dutton, Nicole Beharie, Aunjanue Ellis, Clancy Brown




here’s no doubt that Ernie Davis led an inspirational and tragically moving life, yet the formulaic presentation and stereotypical structure to this motivational sports drama doesn’t provide an appropriately engaging platform to tell his story. Perhaps his life is the epitome of the genre, but audiences have seen this same tale countless times, through the participants of varying sports and slightly different obstacles. “The Express” does an exemplary job of recreating an era and a football legend with plenty of heart and exciting action, but an overlong running time and an over-attentiveness to specific dates and historical accuracy diminishes the entertainment and amps up the documentary vibe, which takes viewers out of the important drama of race relations and civil rights.

Ever since he was a young boy growing up in Pennsylvania (in the early ’40s), African-American Ernie Davis (Rob Brown) was forced to overcome harsh adversity. Perhaps his greatest challenge arrived when he was recruited to play college football for Syracuse in 1958, under the tutelage of coach Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid). “The Express” chronicles the tragically short yet monumentally accomplished life of the first African-American to ever win the Heisman Trophy (awarded to the player deemed most outstanding in college football in a given year).

All the actors involved portray their respective real-life characters with enthusiasm and charisma aplenty; however, far too many appear included just to fill a customary role in the standard inspirational sports drama template. Regardless of its basis on a true story, it’s possible that these people actually carried themselves as seen in the picture – but it seems highly unlikely. Dennis Quaid gives a notable hard-edged, grouchy-coach-with-a-heart-of-gold performance, managing to admirably avoid an immoderate quantity of those typical, lengthy, rousing speeches, while still overcoming the pitfall of trying to act too tough to be believable (and not a “Full Metal Jacket” type of exaggeration).

Once again, Hollywood has churned out an inspirational sports drama with that winning blend of feel-good momentum and underdog accomplishments. Although the sport keeps changing, the formula stays the same, and so the significance of this biographical adaptation feels overdone and imitative. Realistic (particularly in costuming), convincing, but ultimately more of the same tried-and-true storytelling, “The Express” is a perfect moviegoing experience for those who know exactly what the film is all about before watching it.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10