Gran Turismo

Director: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Archie Madekwe, Takehiro Hira, Darren Barnet, Geri Halliwell Horner, Djimon Hounsou
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Runtime: 135 mins. Reviewed in Aug 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Coarse language

Gran Turismo is based on the unbelievable true story of a team of unlikely underdogs ­– a struggling working-class gamer, a failed former race car driver and an idealistic motorsport executive.

Around 2¼ hours of high adrenaline excitement for those sitting comfortably in cinema seats. This is a film for racing car enthusiasts, Formula 1, PlayStation fans – in fact, for all those who love cars and driving, especially at high speeds. Which means, of course, that it is not for those who have problems and ideological difficulties with Formula 1, and who see cars simply as a vehicle for getting from one place to another.

Speaking of Formula 1, it is fair to say that this story of racing driver success follows the well-known formula for sports films. But, while fastidious comments include the word predictable, those who enjoy the film expect this kind of story, identify with the characters, their hopes, trials and successes.

Not everyone is familiar with PlayStation and computer games (though that demographic is increasing as those getting older have long familiarity with computer games). This film was produced by PlayStation and is a huge promotion for Nissan. It is based on a true story, although the central character is somewhat fictionalised in terms of his success. However, there in the final credits, as so often nowadays, are photos of the actual driver, Jann Mardenborough, his trainer Jack Salter, his parents, family, juxtaposed with the pictures of Madekwe who plays him here. And we are informed Mardenborough did all the stunts for the film’s action sequences (and co-produced the film). The film has been directed by South African Neill Blomkamp, who came to prominence with District 9, and science fiction films, Elysium and Chappie.

There are some initial explanations of the Japanese origin of the computer game, ‘Gran Turismo’, its popularity and success, and we are introduced to Danny Moore, a Nissan promoter, with what seems a rather wild idea of having computer champions become actual racing drivers. We are introduced to the young Mardenborough, skilled at playing Gran Turismo in Cardiff. His father (Hounsou), a champion footballer is protective and cautious, wanting his son to have a good job, while his mother (Halliwell Horner, of Spice Girl fame), is supportive. But, driving is what Mardenborough wants. Danny Moore organises a PlayStation competition and Mardenborough wins.

And here’s where we follow the enjoyable formula. There is the quest for a coach who understands cars, embodied in David Harbour’s Salter. A failed driver, he is severe on the candidates, challenging them, but eventually becoming coach and father figure to Mardenborough. There is the fickle Danny Moore, a born promoter, happy with success, miserable with failures. And, of course, there are the competitive drivers – particularly an arrogant Brit who will be defeated when the chips are down. There are friends. There is a nice love interest. There is gradual success, dire moments of failure, a spectacularly terrible crash, the quest to be licensed for driving – and visits to all kinds of venues around the world culminating at the 24 hours of Le Mans.

Needless to say, the film races at a great pace, close-ups of the driving, the driver and his psychology, the crowds, aerial shots, drone shots, and always rapid editing and pace. For the Gran Turismo and racing car fans and probably meets most expectations.

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