The Express a.k.a. “The Express: The Ernie Davis Story”
Reviewed by: Malaika Ware
Biography, History, Drama, Adaptation, Sports
2 hr. 15 min.
Year of Release:
October 10, 2008 (wide—2,700 theaters)
DVD: January 20, 2009
RACISM—What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer
This film is based on the book Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express by Robert Gallagher.
“He changed our country… one yard at a time.”
The story begins with a young Ernie Davis (Justin Martin) and a young Will Davis Jr. (Justin Jones), happily collecting soda bottles along the town’s railroad tracks. Soon, they are confronted by a gang of white boys (approximately 10-15) hurling racial epithets and threatening to beat them up if they (young Ernie and young Will) do not give up their bags of soda bottles. Overwhelmed with fear, young Will drops his bag and jumps onto the side of a train that was conveniently passing by. Facing a seemingly inevitable situation, young Ernie, who is now surrounded by these boys who are threatening him, takes off running with both bags in hand. He runs so fast that neither the boys that were surrounding him, nor the ones who were hiding in the bushes and trees, could catch him!
Prior to watching the film, I did not know much about Ernie Davis, but it was the opening scene that gave me an idea of the level of talent and speed he possessed, even as a child.
According to the film, Ernie Davis struggled with stuttering as a child, but his grandfather (Charles S. Dutton), with whom he lived in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, apparently, helped him to overcome the problem by practicing his reading… of the Bible. Soon after the opening scene, the audience is introduced to Ernie’s mother (Aunjanue Ellis), who has recently remarried and is ready for Ernie to join her and her new husband in Elmira, New York. While young Ernie excelled in the Small Fry Football League, dealing with racism is still apart of his everyday life.
Fast forward to Ernie’s (Rob Brown) senior year in high school, and he is being recruited by approximately 50 schools, one of which is Syracuse University, whose football team is coached by Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid) and led on the field by Jim Brown (Darrin Dewitt Henson), a recently drafted player for the Cleveland Browns. From there, the film focuses on Davis’ time at Syracuse, where he not only shocked the college football world with his amazing skills, but he stood up to the harsh realities of racism that infected this country at that time.
I think there is much to glean from Ernie Davis’ character, as portrayed on the big screen. Davis exhibited admirablecharacteristics such as respectfulness, perseverance, self-control, submissiveness, obedience and humility. Nowadays, much of society seems to look negatively upon such qualities in a man (as opposed to a woman); however, God is pleased. Here is what God says in His Word (The Holy Bible) about these traits. With regard to respectfulness, perseverance and self-control, God says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). With regard to submissiveness, God says, “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is… submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:17, 21). Finally, with regard to obedience and humility, God says “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus… And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him…” (Philippians 2:5, 8-9a).
“The Express” is rated PG for thematic content, violence and language involving racism and for brief sensuality, and it is for those reasons viewers may find the movie somewhat offensive. My opinion, though, is that if the movie powers-that-be omitted the violence completely, it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to stay true to the story, so to speak. Unfortunately, racially-motivated violence was characteristic of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, during the time in which Ernie Davis lived. However, what I found very offensive was the profane language with which God’s name was used—and that was not necessary to include in the movie. The third of the Ten Commandments reads, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).
Overall, I really enjoyed this film. I was inspired to continue in striving to be all that God created me to be, and I think other viewers will be, also. I think the filmmakers did a good job of tying up loose ends at the conclusion of the movie. I would personally recommend this movie for adults, however, due to the offensive content, I would not recommend it for teens.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.