Gran Turismo Review – GT advertising disguised as solid motorsport movie

Any Gran Turismo fan will be familiar with the story of Jann Mardenborough. If you didn’t follow the GT Academy project closely at the time, you undoubtedly got a sideways glimpse of his story. It wasn’t nothing either, getting a sim racer to take a seat in a real race car and compete with a professional race team. Now there is the Gran Turismo movie to tell his story, but unfortunately, this biopic will only really appeal to the biggest fans.

For example, for the first half hour, the film is far too preoccupied with extolling Gran Turismo itself. The initial pitches for the project at the Nissan top, delivered with noticeable enthusiasm by Orlando Bloom as marketing man Danny Moore, would not look out of place in a press conference for the latest installment in the series. Only when the film shifts focus to the story of Jann (a fine role by Archie Madekwe) does a more traditional sports film emerge. Although Jann also gets the terrible honor of telling the girl he likes that Gran Turismo “isn’t a game, it’s a simulator. Painful.

Standard sports story brought with enthusiasm

Fortunately, the rest of Jann’s story is much more interesting. The budding driver is a timid British teenager from a typical soccer family. Certainly not a family with the pennies to offer their son a motor racing career. What follows is a somewhat standard biopic about believing in yourself and how Jann’s talent points him in the right direction, accompanied, of course, by the always surly David Harbour as a jaded racing veteran, who seems to relish this kind of role. His transition from narrative mentor to true believer is perhaps the most convincing of the entire film.

Father Djimon Hounsou, in his role as a former soccer player with no eye or understanding for his son’s talent, is sometimes very emotional, but his role does fit the pattern in which the protagonist has everyone against him and really has to overcome something. Our own Josha Stradowski sets an excellent foe with his role as the spiteful Nicholas Capa, who rises to the level of the terrible Devon Butler from the Formula One games.

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Know your audience

Gran Turismo clearly knows which audience it should target. Despite the fact that the story tries to focus on the human aspect and spectacle of motor racing, the film takes so long here that it is probably difficult for the average viewer to really hold their attention. The acting is fine, and for true fans it’s nice to see Kazunori Yamauchi back in a brief cameo sushi chef. But considering how small the Gran Turismo creator’s role in the film is, he could have played himself quite well. A small cameo with GT-youtuber SuperGT’s channel is also nice to see for the true connoisseurs.

Given this focus on fans, the many continuity errors and anachronisms that real fans are likely to quickly pick out are rather awkward. Of course, Jann plays the latest Gran Turismo in the film and proudly introduces a Fanatec DD, Gran Turismo’s current official wheel. But Jann also gives a Sony Walkman to his mentor as if we were suddenly not living in 2023. Also, fans who know the tracks being driven on really well will immediately see that much of the racing footage takes place at the Hungaroring, not the tracks the film says are being driven on. And if you know the Nűrburgring really well, you can immediately see how the film teleports from hot to cold across the track. Not to mention the problem in which Jann twice closes in on his predecessor by over five seconds on one lap. Something that really just doesn’t happen in real motor racing.

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Because of this, it sometimes seems as if the film cannot quite gauge its own audience. On one hand, the makers hope to find a new audience for Gran Turismo and, of course, Nissan sports cars, but on the other hand, the film focuses very much on the existing fans. As a result, the end result feels somewhat uneven. Too generic for the real fans, but also just too specific for the general audience.

Motorsports as you’ve never seen it in a movie before

The races themselves fortunately splash off your screen as director Neil Blomkamp tries some new techniques to properly depict the speed and chaos of a car race. With many moving drone shots emulating the game’s camera, but it is also visible that Jann did his own stunt work. The cars drive at the limit on a real circuit and it shows in the footage. Only criticism is that at some points the camera work does get very dynamic, making the action difficult to follow at a few moments.

The soundtrack, apart from a couple of standout tracks by Enya and Kenny G (which is what the remarkably gentle Jann, for a driver, likes to listen to to in order to unwind), is not very striking. It’s all about the sound of roaring engines during the races, of course, and especially in the film’s final act, the rattling of the exhaust and squealing brakes take over the film to the point where it’s almost overwhelming.

Gran Turismo gets off to a slow start, but once the film hits the gas pedal, it won’t let you go. The film certainly won’t win any Oscars, but it does just fine what you expect from an average sports movie. The story is inspiring, the action on the tracks is excellent, and as an advertisement for Gran Turismo, the film does a fine job. Whether it will also convince your loved ones that you can start a racing career yourself I doubt, but there has never been a better time to take your chances.

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