Following the life of Ernie Davis (the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy), The Express tells a tale of achievement and dedication in the 1960s, highlighting one man (Davis) who forever changed the face of American sports. Starring Dennis Quaid as legendary Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder and Rob Brown as Ernie Davis, The Express is a story about the fight for equality. And from that description, it sounds like it’s also high drama. And who do you call in to compose your score when you’re making a drama? Mark Isham.
If you have your doubts about this claim, look at Isham’s composing record. He’s scored over 75 films, with recent films including “Reservation Road”, “Lions for Lambs”, “In the Valley of Elah”, “The Secret Life of Bees”, “Freedom Writers”, “Bobby”, and “Crash.”Â These aren’t comedy/dramas or even light drama. This is a pretty dramatic list of dramas. And it’s clear that Isham feels comfortable in this territory, considering that he keeps returning to it, and keeps delivering the quietly moving crescendos that cinema-goers look for in their emotional dramas. (To be fair, Isham has also composed forÂ comedies, though those tend to be less highbrow – “KickingÂ & Screaming”, “Racing Stripes”, and “Eight Below”).
For The Express,Â Isham opens his score with an almost ominous prologue track, with heavily pounding drums and darkly driving strings. About a minute in, though, he loosens up and the sports action starts to flow freely for the rest of the track. Unfortunately, Isham’s scoreÂ begins to sound a bit too muchÂ like the general mix of melancholy (listen to the track “Elmira”)Â and triumph (listen to the track “Heisman”)Â that most films about overcoming obstacles tend to have. Isham doesÂ manage to mix in a good deal of rising action and excitement-laced, forward-moving beats in tracks such asÂ ”Cotton Bowl,” which has a college marching band quality to it on occasion, especially in the quick drum beats.Â ”Don’t Lose Yourselves” is a perfect example of all three styles, opening with a melancholy drag, slowly building on a sense of optimism, and then exploding into composition laced with what sounds like a college marching band.
Overall, Mark Isham has created yet another moving score, but there’s only so much you can do with melancholy and triumph before it gets a little tired.
Zach’s Rating: B-
Perfect For: Background music while watching college football… well, some parts of it
Stay Away if: You’ve heard enough accomplishment and doubt in every drama soundtrack ever
If you only buy one track, make it this one: “The Express”
To purchase The Express soundtrack, visit Amazon