Action Adventure

Review: ‘Gran Turismo’ is a Feel-Good Adrenaline-Pumper that Rides High on Inspiration and Emotion

August 23, 2023Ben MK

Once the butt of many a cinephile's jokes, the video game genre has arguably come a long way since Jean-Claude Van Damme donned military boots to save the world as Street Fighter's Colonel Guile. With film adaptations of classic side-scrolling platformers like Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros. earning accolades from audiences and critics alike, there's no doubt that Hollywood has entered a new golden era when it comes to bringing gamers' most beloved characters and franchises to the big screen. And now with Gran Turismo, it's racing gamers' turn, as director Neill Blomkamp sets out to turn Sony's long-running racing series into one of the year's most inspiring sports underdog movies.

Based on the incredible true story of pro race car driver Jann Mardenborough, the film follows Jann (Archie Madekwe), one of the UK's most skilled gamers and the son of former footballer Steve (Djimon Hounsou). An avid Gran Turismo player, Jann's extreme devotion to the game has both his dad and mom (Gerri Halliwell) worried, especially since, at the age of 19, he should be spending his time thinking about his post-secondary education rather than sitting alone in his room at his computer. However, when Jann unwittingly wins a spot in a new competition called GT Academy, which happens to be the brainchild of Nissan marketing executive Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom), it puts him on a whole new and completely unexpected career trajectory. Selected as one of the top Gran Turismo players from around the world, Jann suddenly finds himself having to prove his mettle on an actual race track. But will his finely honed skills in the virtual world translate to real-world success?

Enter Jack Salter (David Harbour), a gruff, matter-of-fact former racer who, due to a traumatic accident early on in his professional career, has turned his focus to coaching other young racers eager to make a name for themselves. Brought into GT Academy to help Jann and his fellow competitors learn the rules of the sport, Jack's faith in his new students is minimal at best, and he has every intention to quit if he believes any of them are putting either their own lives or the lives of others in danger. Much to his surprise, however, Jann's in-depth knowledge of racing far surpasses Jack's wildest expectations. But when Jann achieves a narrow victory at GT academy and must turn his attention towards earning his professional racing license, will Jack be able to help him take his skills to the next level? Or will Jann crash and burn, proving the naysayers right once and for all?

Needless to say, anyone possessing a modicum of familiarity with the genre will already know the answer. Still, in spite of the odds being stacked against it, Gran Turismo manages to deliver a thrilling, pedal-to-the-metal experience that will have audiences cheering from start to finish. From the swooping drone shots that put viewers right in the middle of all the racing action to the track-side speeches from Jack that are meant to put a fire in Jann's belly during the critical points of the competition, there's no shortage of adrenaline-pumping moments to keep moviegoers on the edge of their seats. What's even more impressive, though, is the fact that Blomkamp and screenwriters Jason Hall and Zach Baylin are able to wring a good deal of emotion from the story as well, thanks in large part to the father-son and mentor-mentee relationships that are at the heart of the movie.

A must-see for both racing aficionados and gamers, the result is a truly inspiring underdog story and a love letter to the iconic driving sim that does what few video game adaptations have done. After all, it's not often that you hear the phrase "based on a true story" within the context of this genre. Yet, Gran Turismo's atypical approach to bringing the fan-favorite video game franchise to the big screen is a definite winner, especially for moviegoers who realize that it's not how you start the race, but how you cross the finish line that matters.

Gran Turismo releases August 25th, 2023 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense action and some strong language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 15 min.

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