The Express appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not without concerns, the transfer usually looked fine.
Sharpness came across fairly well. Some wider shots tended to be a bit iffy, but those failed to create prominent distractions. Overall, the image was but light edge enhancement showed up through the film. Source flaws caused no concerns, as the flick remained clean and fresh at all times.
Like virtually all period pieces, Express went with a stylized palette. The flick cast much of its material in a golden hue that gave it a vintage amber tone. Within that range, the colors looked solid, as various reds and blues still came out well. Blacks seemed deep and firm, while shadows provided nice clarity and delineation. This was a generally positive presentation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Express worked fine for the material. Though it had its moments, the soundscape didn’t provide a lot of pizzazz. Music demonstrated nice stereo imaging, and football games added a decent sense of place. This was a forward-oriented mix that used the surrounds in a moderate manner.
Audio quality seemed satisfying. Speech always appeared warm and natural, with no edginess or other issues. Music was lively and full, as the score showed solid reproduction. Effects also boasted good clarity and definition, though they didn’t exactly push the auditory envelope. Overall, the soundtrack was perfectly acceptable for this sort of flick.
We find a handful of extras here. An audio commentary from director Gary Fleder launches things. He provides a running, screen-specific look at editing and cinematography, cast and performances, the script and story structure, the film’s use of music, historical liberties, period details, cinematic influences, sets and locations, and shooting the football scenes.
Across the board, Fleder provides a nice discussion of his film. He digs into a good mix of elements and doesn’t seem afraid to mention flaws. I like his tendency to critique his own work, and he makes this an informative, fairly objective take on the production.
Three deleted scenes fill a total of seven minutes, 37 seconds. These include “Texas Gas Station” (2:02), “Sarah Discovers Bloody Cotton Balls” (2:06) and “Ernie in the Hospital, Weight Training, and Locker Room” (3:29). “Gas” just reinforces all the racist attitudes seen throughout the movie; it feels redundant. “Balls” adds a little evidence of Ernie’s growing illness, but we already get a good feel for that, so it also seems unnecessary. Finally, “Room” does more of the same in terms of Ernie’s sickness; those pieces also don’t add anything.
We can watch these with or without commentary from Fleder. He gives us some details about the scenes and lets us know why he cut them. Fleder continues to present honest and useful thoughts.
Four featurettes follow. Making of The Express lasts 13 minutes, 58 seconds and presents info from Fleder, production designer Nelson Coates, director of photography Kramer Morgenthau, football coordinator/2nd unit director Allan Graf, and actors Dennis Quaid, Rob Brown, Charles S. Dutton, Nicole Beharie, Geoff Stults and Darren Dewitt Henson. “Making” looks at the project’s development, cast and performances, Fleder’s work on the set, locations and period challenges, cinematography and visual design, and shooting the football sequences.
While it never becomes an especially deep program, “Making” manages to cover the basics in a decent manner. Of course, since Fleder touched on so much in his commentary, some redundant material appears. Nonetheless, “Making” adds nice shots from the set and fleshes out matters in an acceptable manner.
During the 13-minute and 18-second Making History: The Story of Ernie Davis, we hear from Brown, Fleder, Quaid, Dutton,
Ernie’s uncle Chuck Davis, Syracuse teammates Jerry Sobol, Ger Schwedes and John Brown, high school classmate Bob Hill, Syracuse players Floyd Little and Jim Brown, sportscasters/Syracuse alumni Bob Costas and Dick Stockton, Ben Schwartwalder’s wife Reggie, and Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell. “History” offers a general overview of Davis’s life, with an emphasis on his football career. I’d like more depth to the show, but it allows us a decent glimpse of the fact behind the movie’s tale.
Inside the Playbook: Shooting the Football Games runs seven minutes and features Fleder and Graf. As we see shots of the footnall action, Fleder and Graf provide details about the specifics. This becomes a nice examination of the sports segments.
Finally, From Hollywood to Syracuse: The Legacy of Ernie Davis fills five minutes, 19 seconds with comments from Fleder, Costas, Little, Coates, Jim Brown, Syracuse alumni Vanessa Williams and Angela Robinson, Syracuse professors Peter Moller and Stephen Masiclat, Syracuse students Lisa Coombs, Tinuke Oyefule, Lauren Levine, Meghan Lisson, Michael Odafin and John Troynousky. We learn a little about shooting at Syracuse, but mostly this feels like a long ad for the university.
A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Flash of Genius, the three Back to the Future flicks and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. No trailer for The Express appears here.
At no point will you find anything surprising, daring or creative about The Express. Nonetheless, the movie does what it needs to do as it turns into an enjoyable – if predictable – inspirational sports story. The DVD offers fairly good picture and audio as well as a mix of fairly interesting extras highlighted by a solid audio commentary. Don’t expect anything revelatory here, but The Express provides a satisfying flick.