"THE EXPRESS" is a bio-pic about Ernie Davis, whom among many accomplishments, was the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Bio-pics, by nature, run the risky chance of trying to compress more of a person's life than one can comprehend in a typical film duration. Inevitably, some facts don't translate perfectly to film, and choices, both good and bad, are made in the process. The film's director, Gary Fleder has done some fine work, but, while "THE EXPRESS" is a good film, it suffers from Fleder's need for heavy-handedness throughout the film. The story behind this young athlete's accomplishments, trials and tribulations, and tragic death, at the age of only 23, before he could actually play for the team that drafted him, The Washington Redskins, is ripe with enough great potential as it is. Still, for some reason, the film utilizes occasionally, totally fabricated scenes, that detract from an otherwise great story.
The cast is terrific! Dennis Quaid is wonderful as Ben Schwartwalder, the coach who first understood the real talent behind Davis. But, it's Rob Brown, as the older Ernie Davis, who is responsible for carrying the weight of the film, and he does so flawlessly. Brown never seems to be acting! He's just taken over the part that well!
While the film's atmosphere tends to feel too syrupy for its own good, "THE EXPRESS" will still leave most viewers choked up in a good way, primarily due to the talent of the cast.
UNIVERSAL has provided the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio for this 1080p/VC-1 blu-ray. The image is excellent throughout! Colors intentionally vary in intensity, depending on the given scene, and whether Fleder is presenting an archival-like sequence. But, they're typically rich. Contrast is excellent, providing sensational detail in even the darkest settings. The depth achieved in virtually every scene within "THE EXPRESS" makes it one of the best looking blu-rays released so far in '09! GREAT!
UNIVERSAL has provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for this release. While the most immersive listening experience occurs during the football games, subtle, effective ambient and discrete effects are used effectively in almost every scene. Bass also kicks in with great impact during the games. Dialogue is always intelligible and never overshadowed by the effects or score. A really good mix, although just short of reference quality.
In a running commentary, Fleder discusses every aspect of the film's production that a fan could want. It's never dull and he manages to discuss "some" of the more questionable" liberties taken with the true story.
Deleted scenes, with optional commentary, numerous interviews and a retrospective on the National Championship, have also been included. Anyone liking the film, will certainly enjoy these extras, which manage to round out and confirm the rich personality of the man behind the film's story.