gran turismo

‘Gran Turismo’ Review Impressive Racing & Surprisingly Heartfelt

Not your typical video game adaptation!

Sony have invested heavily recently in bringing their PlayStation titles to the screen. However the latest offering in Gran Turismo I wouldn’t necessarily consider a video game adaptation, this is ultimately a slick sports movie and a heartfelt telling of Jann Mardenborough’s true story.

The first third of the film does come across as a giant commercial for the game or ‘simulator’ as we’re strictly told by Jann (Archie Madekwe). There is an ode to the ‘greatness’ of Gran Turismo’s creators and the game as a whole and it’s branding are thoroughly deployed in the first act but that is not a detriment to the film as a whole.

gran turismo
Sony Pictures

Were introduced to Jann Mardenborough a British teenager who since childhood has had an obsession with cars, racing and the Gran Turismo game. He has dreams of becoming a professional racer so when Sony & Nissan introduce a competition for players to qualify through the game for a real life opportunity, the talented sim racer jumps at the chance.

We’re also introduced to Jann’s family, his father Steve (Djimon Hounsou) is an ex-Cardiff City footballer now working on the railways. Jann has a younger brother named Coby (Daniel Puig) who is an up and coming footballer and his mother Lesley is played by former spice girl Geri Horner.

And its Djimon Hounsou’s performance, that is the one that stands out from Jann’s family members. As his father he regularly questions Jann’s dream, asking him to be realistic, but with hopes of him returning to university. He believes Jann is wasting his life playing video games.

gran tursimo
Sony Pictures

Now despite the first 30 minutes being an advert for the game, where the film is actually at it’s best is in the second & third acts. That’s where we are really dragged in Jann’s story. It covers his time in the Nissan GT Academy, which he qualified for using the skill he built from the thousands of hours playing Gran Turismo.

In the GT Academy the worlds best Gran Turismo players are put through their paces, they’re put through physical training, driver training & even media training and this is where Jann is a little less talented, he’s majestically awkward in front of camera.

The GT Academy is the idea and dream of marketing executive Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom) he orchestrates the program alongside Sony & Nissan, he wants to prove that sim racers can do it for real. Moore enlist former driver turned instructor Jack Salter (David Harbour) he’s a no nonsense, gruff man who is haunted by his own past mistakes. He’s not so complementary about the program, but signs on to develop the wannabe racers.

gran turismo
Sony Pictures

The racing is spectacularly filmed, the sense of speed and power of the cars is tremendous and that’s due to the films director Neil Blomkamp he used a series of drones and helicopters, alongside real high powered cars, racing on real tracks up to 160mph in carefully choregraphed scenes, some of which include the real-life Jann himself, serving as a stunt driver, it all makes for gripping viewing.

There’s is no glossing over the dangers of the sport. As a viewer you are thrown into the action, particularly of those dangers and it’s not without tragedy, there are occasions that will make you wince.

gran turismo
Sony Pictures

Unlike traditional video game adaptations such as The Last of Us where the viewer will most likely know the bulk of the story and will compare and contrast the two. Gran Turismo is actually something we’ve never seen before, the impact of a game on a persons life. That’s what makes it different and that’s what adds to the emotionality of the story.

Jann will not let go of his dream despite the many obstacle’s & pressures he endures and that completely drew me into Jann’s story, which I didn’t know much about beforehand. He is the underdog and I found myself routing for him throughout the film.

Even if you have never heard of or played the game beforehand you can still enjoy this as a stand-alone sports film and underdog story, it’s a thrilling racing film at its core.

Gran Turismo is currenlty playing in UK theaters and will be released in the US August 25.

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