The Gran Turismo Movie is Surprisingly Great

When the Gran Turismo Movie was first announced, I was quite certain that I wasn’t the only one who let out an exasperated “what?!” How were Columbia Pictures and PlayStation Productions going to make a full-length film about a racing game that, historically, doesn’t have a story?

It turns out they could, and they did. I’ve never been so glad to have been proven wrong, because the Gran Turismo Movie is actually really great and definitely worth a watch, whether you’re a fan of the series or not.

Before we dive into the movie, what exactly is Gran Turismo? As a brief backgrounder, Gran Turismo is a racing simulation video game series for the PlayStation, with the first game being released on the PlayStation 1 back in 1997. The series was created by Kazunori Yamauchi and was made to simulate or emulate the appearance and performance of real-world vehicles and race tracks, which gives it its “The Real Driving Simulator” tagline.

So, back to the movie. Gran Turismo is based on the unbelievable true story of a team of unlikely underdogs: a struggling working-class gamer (Archie Madekwe), a failed former racecar driver (David Harbour), and an idealistic motorsport executive (Orlando Bloom). If you’ve never heard of the name “Jann Mardenborough” before, it’s time you did, because it really is an unbelievable story that made the perfect backdrop for this film.

Gran Turismo movie Orlando Bloom David Harbour

The movie starts off with Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom), a Nissan Marketing Executive who travels all the
way to Japan to pitch his idea of recruiting skilled sim drivers to participate in a program that aims to
turn them into real-life race car drivers. This program eventually became known as GT Academy. Yes, that GT Academy.

Mardenborough qualifies to take part in an online tournament that sends him to the academy, eventually winning it all thanks to the effort and guidance of a very tough Jack Saltzer (played by David Harbour of Stranger Things). Mardenborough is actually the 2011 European winner of GT Academy, and his story is ultimately an underdog story that, while having typical elements such as a not-so-supportive family, is endearing and effective.

Interestingly, his mother in the film, played by Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls), is not at all new to racing. She is the wife of Christian Horner, Team Principal and CEO of the Red Bull F1 Team, and it’s quite a nice coincidence that one of the real-life races Jann did first took place in the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

The Gran Turismo Movie succeeds in putting together pieces of a story that make you root for Mardenborough. There are enough twists to subvert expectations, and while it is ultimately a story of success, getting there was a gripping experience that kept us on the edge of our seats.

Gran Turismo movie Neill Blomkamp Jann Mardenborough

Paying homage to the authenticity of the game, the Gran Turismo Movie looks great and sounds even better! There’s no better way to get your adrenaline pumping, and with the roar of the car engines paired with the upbeat tracks, the full runtime of the film is fast and definitely furious.

The movie does not only capture the authenticity of the game but also includes many elements that players are familiar with and hear (and see) in the movie. From the game menu sounds to the victory pose in Gran Turismo 7, there are a lot of references that fans will surely enjoy. There’s a CG sequence of Mardenborough’s car disassembling itself during the race, symbolizing him breaking down elements of his vehicle and knowing how to push it to the limit. You’ll also get to see Mardenborough race on tracks that are also found in the game, like the Nürburgring Nordschleife and the Circuit de la Sarthe, where the 24-hour Le Mans race is held.

That said, the Gran Turismo movie can be seen as a big product endorsement for the game. There are a number of times in the script where Bloom and Madekwe will obviously puff up the game, but that’s to be expected. Will it have served its purpose and invited people to try and buy the game? Maybe. But one thing that the movie will definitely do is make you intrigued by Mardenborough’s real-life story, enough to make you Google it right after watching.

I remember saying that you don’t need to be a fan of Gran Turismo to watch this movie. It holds true, but while fans may get a deeper understanding and appreciation, it isn’t hard to love a good underdog story, and the Gran Turismo Movie is a good 2-hour and 15-minute underdog story.

I, along with many others, may not have given this film a fighting chance when it was first announced, but I walked away pleasantly surprised about how good it was. Though it is not the BEST racing movie out there, it is a good video game adaptation, and I actually enjoyed it more than another racing movie that has somehow managed to resurrect dead cast members and even make a trip to space.

Rated PG, “Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story” opens in PH cinemas on August 30.

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