August 25, 2023 / Sony Pictures Canada
David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Archie Madekwe, Darren Barnet, Geri Halliwell Homer, Djimon Hounsou
Based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), the film is the ultimate wish fulfillment tale of a teenage Gran Turismo player whose gaming skills earned him a spot in a Nissan trial to find someone could become a real race car driver.
Mardenborough manages to win a series of competitions to become an actual professional race car driver. However, driving a real race car is much harder than any of the participants anticipate, losing their ability to make mistakes. In a video game when you make a mistake you reset, in real racing when you make a mistake you could die.
Written By Darren
Rating 4 out of 5
Gran Turismo races into the end of the summer movie season with a truly crowd pleasing experience, full of excellently executed race sequences with cinematography and sound design that puts you in the driver’s seat, allowing director Neill Blomkamp to deliver the last surprise hit of the summer!
True story sports films are always enjoyable to watch, with their universal story of the underdog’s struggle to achieve their dreams. Even though it’s a story arc that has been done countless times, it is always an inspiring experience that is easy to get swept up in. In recent years, we have been treated to excellent racing films with Ron Howard’s Rush and James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari (which remains one of my all time favourite sports films), and director Neill Blomkamp has delivered the next hit for the racing genre. While it shares the name of the popular Playstation video game franchise, this is not a video game adaptation but a heart pounding sports drama that pays homage to the games while creating a film that will have audiences cheering in their seats.
Jann Mardenborough dreams of being a professional race car driver, having spent thousands of hours racing on Gran Turismo, making him one of the best players in the world. When Nissan holds a contest, inviting the game’s best players to train to become a professional driver for Team Nissan, Jann begins the journey of a lifetime to pursue his dream at all costs with the aid of an ex-racer as his trainer and a marketing executive, both determined to make him a professional racer.
The story of Gran Turismo may feel like so many other sports films with its familiar story of the underdog becoming a sports legend, though this does not prevent it from being enjoyable for a second. Sprinkled throughout the story are nods to the Gran Turismo video games, whether it be CGI added to the race sequences to simulate the aesthetics of the video game or the constant reminders that the drivers in the film were trained playing Gran Turismo. It’s got the hallmarks of the sports genre, all building to a thrilling final act with the historic sports moment of the film, but the screenplay never loses track of the human story for a second. Jann Mardenborough’s story and his perseverance of how he became the historic driver he is today is full of heart, making it easy for the audience to connect with his character on an emotional and personal level. You feel his struggle and pain, have your soul lift when he succeeds, and watch anxiously as he chases his dreams over the course of the film, ensuring that audiences are invested in the story. Yes, the screenplay may play fast and loose with the facts at times to create a more dramatic story and it starts off a little rocky in the first act before finding its winning path to the finish line, but the result is a film that audiences are going to fall in love with.
Leading the film is David Harbour, Orlando Bloom and Archie Madekwe; capably making the film the hit it is with their performances. Bloom is perfect as the sleazy marketing agent, less concerned with safety and skill but more with what image he can sell; while Madekwe proves to be a star on the rise with his heartfelt portrayal of Jann and his journey to becoming the successful driver he is today. But, it is Harbour who is the standout. As the jaded trainer to Jann, Harbour finds the optimal balance of humour, passion and defiance to bring to life a trainer concerned for the safety of his drivers, disenchanted with the vision of the marketing executive who cooked up this insane idea at the same time of being haunted by his past decisions, while being the guiding wisdom of the film. Like in previous roles, Harbour is exceptional from start to finish, stealing every scene he is and proving what an underappreciated character actor he is. The rest of the cast is good, notably Djimon Hounsou and Geri Horner as Jann’s parents, even if they do not get the proper amount of time to shine, but this film belongs to the trio of Harbour, Madekwe and Bloom who light up the screen with their performances.
Though, it is Blomkamp’s direction that makes the film a winner. Injecting the film with a heart pounding intensity that puts the audience in the middle of the excitement and danger of the races, Blomkamp spares no expense with the creation of the racing sequences. The cinematography captures the tight turns of the race tracks, the driver’s point of view, and sweeping shots of the cars zipping across the screen. From an audio perspective, the sound design is flawless, allowing each rev of the engine and screech of the tires to ring through the theater’s sound system, making it feel like you are in the driver’s seat rather than watching the race from the stands. Plus, there are some great music selections from Kenny G and and Enya sprinkled throughout the film that will bring a smile to your face and help bring out the human story amidst the nerve wracking race sequences. It’s expertly crafted on all fronts, creating a dazzling experience for the big screen, demanding that this film is a must see film on the big screen with a sold out crowd, as it is not an experience that can be recreated from the comfort of your own home.
It is safe to say that Gran Turismo has all the makings of a box office hit, and it is racing its way to theaters ready to provide one last crowd pleasing experience to close out the summer movie season. Neill Blomkamp has always been a director with a technical perfection to the films he makes, even if the stories have not always connected with me personally, but Gran Turismo is without question my favourite film of his career to date. With an outstanding execution of exhilarating race sequences brought to life by mesmerizing cinematography and impeccable sound design, combined with a truly inspiring and incredible true story and yet another winning performance from David Harbour, Gran Turismo crosses the finish line a true winner with one last brilliant surprise hit of the summer that must be experienced on the big screen.