The Christian Broadcasting Network



Email Updates

Latest entertainment articles and reviews. Subscribe

Weekly top stories and videos. Subscribe

Rob Brown, Dennis Quaid

Movie Info


PG for thematic content, violence and language involving racism, and for brief sensuality.


October 10, 2008


Drama, Adaptation, Biopic and Sports


Dennis Quaid, Rob Brown, Omar Benson Miller, Charles S. Dutton, Aunjanue Ellis


Charles Leavitt (screenwriter), Robert C. Gallagher (biography, "Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express, the Story of a Heisman Trophy Winner")


Gary Fleder


Universal Pictures


Please Note

In providing movie reviews on our site, is not endorsing or recommending films we review. Our goal is to provide Christians with information about the latest movies, both the good and the bad, so that our readers may make an informed decision as to whether or not films are appropriate for them and their families.


The Express

By Chris Carpenter Program Director

Whenever I see an inspirational sports movie I am always wary that it could very easily fall into predictable, formulaic patterns – the overachieving underdog overcomes the greatest of odds to become a champion.  For every Raging Bull and Rocky there have been far too many Invincible and Glory Road productions.

While utilizing many of the tried and true recipes that make sports movies work, The Express exceeded my expectations.

The Express is based on the real life story of Ernie Davis (nicknamed “The Elmira Express”), the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, the highest individual honor a player can achieve in the collegiate ranks.

Born in 1939, Davis was raised in a hard-scrabble Pennsylvania coal mining town by a loving grandfather who saw a better day coming for African-Americans in the years ahead.  During his adolescent years Davis moved to Elmira, New York to live with his mother and stepfather.  He quickly rose to prominence as a superstar athlete before being recruited by Syracuse University to play football in 1959.  His task was not an easy one – replace football legend Jim Brown at running back while battling racism at every turn.

While there is certainly an abundance of football on display throughout, the movie focuses on the mutually beneficial, sometimes complicated relationship between Davis and Syracuse head coach Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid).  Charismatic yet humble, Rob Brown (Finding Forrester) portrays Davis as a young man greatly affected by the civil rights movement of the time yet realizes integrity and dignity will ultimately overcome all prejudice.  Despite falling into the classic stereotype of the gruff, crusty coach who really does care, Quaid does a commendable job of tackling perhaps the movie’s toughest role.  Schwartzwalder was a man who overcame his own prejudices to integrate a team in the face of racially motivated violence on and off the field.

Perhaps the most pivotal moments of the movie come in two featured football games pitting Syracuse against West Virginia and Texas.  The scenes are at once unnerving but far more important they symbolize a genuine feeling for the historical importance of the time.

From a Christian perspective, I was heartened by a family dinner scene where young Davis’s grandfather (Charles Dutton) shared the Scripture passage I Corinthians 15:10.  Some would call this a heavy handed touch but the verse became quite symbolic of the life Ernie Davis would eventually lead. 

One would be hard pressed to find someone who had more heart than Ernie Davis.  Likewise, it would be even more difficult to find a movie with better intentions than The Express.   

The Express

Ernie Davis on Wikipedia

For more stories like this one, sign up to receive Entertainment News from in your email every Friday.

Comments? Email me

More articles by Chris Carpenter on


  • Translate
  • Print Page

Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?

A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.

Do You Know Jesus
Grow In Your Faith

Need Prayer?

Call 1-800-700-7000
Email your prayer request

Email iconSign up for E-mail Updates Full List