Gran Turismo – movie review

Twenty-five years ago Kazunori Yamauchi created the world’s most accurate car racing simulation game: Gran Turismo. He and his team had spent five years perfecting it. Video gamers quickly became obsessed. Then UK marketing executive for Nissan, Danny Moore had a crazy, but revolutionary idea.

In Neill Blomkamp’s movie Gran Turismo, Moore (Orlando Bloom), convinces Nissan management to allow gamers to race real Nissan racing cars as a PR stunt. Surprisingly, the execs buy it. The idea is to choose the best Gran Turismo player from around the world. The top ten gamers were selected from a series of live, online events. Then, they’re taught to drive real cars by a grizzled engineer, himself a former driver, Jack Salter (David Harbour). Pitted against each other, the ten are whittled down to five and then a single race determined who will be “the chosen one”.

One aspirant is a quietly spoken, but determined gamer from Cardiff, Wales; Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe). His father Steve (Djimon Hounsou) had been a soccer champion and Jann’s younger brother Coby (Daniel Puig) also took up the round ball game. Steve is on Jann’s case to play football, urging him to put his time and effort into something meaningful, rather than playing video games. But Jann isn’t into the ball sport and he doesn’t relent. Still, his road to becoming the one selected to race is far from easy. That’s nothing compared to what he encounters when he takes to the track for real against seasoned drivers, not just videogame champions.

Of course, he has to have his wits about him and learn fast. That was always a given. But more than that, he faces significant prejudice from drivers and one in particular, Nicholas Capa (Josha Stradowski). Capa (and others) are against a gamer encroaching on a “big boys’” sport.

Gran Turismo is based on a true story, which makes it all the more compelling. Make no mistake, despite the ending never really being in doubt – it quickly became clear what would happen – it is exciting. The film – written by Jason Hall and Zach Baylin – throws up plenty of obstacles and challenges.

Director Blomkamp (District 9) ensures there’s no shortage of adrenaline-pumping action throughout. Of course, it’s the characters that bring the story to life. Jack Salter is, arguably, the most interesting of those. He is a man whose career was cut short, but we don’t know why until a significant way into the film. David Harbour balances the push-and-pull required of his persona well. Unbridled enthusiasm, with much to lose, is the default position for Orlando Bloom as the marketing guru. Archie Madekwe is likeable and, more often than not, contained as Jann. The film also features Geri Halliwell Horner (of Spice Girls fame) as Jann’s mum.

The filmmakers have done a great job with the visual effects, specifically by overlaying the simulated video game with “skeletons” of race cars. The sound, music, production design and cinematography all come together to produce a pulsating ride. Gran Turismo has much going for it.

Alex First

Other reviews you might enjoy: