Friday, February 20, 2015
THE EXPRESS (2008)
Directed By: Gary Fleder
Written By: Charles Leavitt
Based on the book "Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express" By: Robert Gallagher
Cinematography By: Kramer Morgenthau
Editor: Padraic McKinley & William Steinkamp
Cast: Rob Thomas, Dennis Quaid, Aujanue Ellis, Clancy Brown, Omar Benson Miller, Charles S. Dutton, Nelson Ellis, Nicole Beharie, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Saul Rubinek, Chadwick Boseman
This biopic focuses on the relationship of Ernie Davis, a gifted African-American athlete, and his coach from 1958 to 1962 at Syracuse University, Ben Schwartzwalder. Schwartzwalder recruits Davis with the help of All-American running back, Jim Brown. The civil rights movement is gaining steam; Davis experiences prejudice on campus, in town, and on the field, sometimes from teammates. How he handles it and how he challenges Schwartzwalder to stand up for his players provide a counterpoint to several great seasons that lead first to a national championship and then to the Heismann Trophy.
This is an inspiring tale that could have been made by hallmark, but sometimes you need a film that is uplifting that isn't actually warts and all and gliders over certain aspects and problems as that is not he file intention.
It shows how the main character had to overcome hardships, but he did it with smarts grace and manners. Something that you see so few times today in film and in life, unfortunately.
At times pulling at the heart strings, but this is more a man's type film with the many father figure and mentors in the main character's life. It shows how men can relate and show they care for one another.
The innocence of the film and it's characters are welcomed whole-hearted. As it is nice to see a film that is not cynical nor contains just the ugliness of the story and stays on the side of the positive attributes sure for some that might make the tale unbelievable, if you want the ugly facts research it yourself. This tale more focuses on the uplifting parts of the story showing struggles but also great triumphs as a result. It has adversity, love, friendship, family and mentors. Sure at times it gets saccharine, that it is so sweet it tastes bitter. but never cloying or overloaded like the film THE LONGSHOTS.
Even though the film evokes the period well in costume and scenery. The film strangely seems small scale for such a promising story. That at times it reeks of an overblown TV movie with a feature film cast. Though the story and movie will make you cry. It feels like a prestiege film that finally got made. Where the hero is practically a saint as to give a clue that he is being made into a hero with few if any faults and is too pure it seems to survive in the world and the times. Rob brown does what is asked in the role making a legendary character more human. Dennis Quaid comes out of nowhere in this film. Being the tough yet compassionate coach we have seen numerous times in films like these.
Though why all of a sudden the director uses hand held camera angles all of a sudden in action or sports scenes I know why, but it becomes jarring with sic a smooth approach before and after Jose scenes. It's a common technique that feels outbid place here. It seems a technique that is a must now since Oliver stone seemed to make it a staple of his films. Especially if it's a period piece.
The film plays middle of the road. Luckily, not heavy handed. It has a style that seems soft yet focused.
Dennis Quaid plays the curmudgeon old coach who ends up inspiring and being inspired with his player hike occasionally button heads with him and any opponent. He looks a lot older then he actually is. Though he plays the role well.
I liked Darrin Dewitt Henson who plays Jim Brown. His performance was vivid while staying charismatic and playing a hard headed talented man.
At least we are spared a highly emotional death scene.
A good family film