Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: Based on the unbelievable, inspiring true story of a team of underdogs — a struggling, working-class gamer, a failed former race car driver, and an idealistic motorsport exec — who risk it all to take on the most elite sport in the world.
Review: PlayStation’s long-running racing simulation series Gran Turismo (1997-2022) might just be the strangest choice for a movie adaptation of a video game property out there, whether that’s a good or bad thing is going to be up to the viewers.
I used to play Gran Turismo religiously as a kid, but my driving skills was nowhere close to the levels of Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe). Shots of his room shows a gamer dedicated to his favourite game with monies spent on expensive hardware designed to get the best out of the eponymous game, sorry, simulator, and beautifully rendered VFX visuals bring to life his mind as he modifies his racing car to create rides real life racers would be envious of.
Mardenborough wants more though. He dreams of actually working on these cars in the real world, much to the disappointment of his father Steve (Djimon Hounsou). Until one day a unique opportunity presents itself when a marketer named Danny Moore (Lord of the Rings‘ Orlando Bloom) comes up with the seemingly crazy idea of creating a competition where gamers are pitted against each other in a Gran Turismo tournament where the winner will get to race for Nissan. This plan is much to the chagrin of veteran crew chief and former racecar driver Jack Salter (David Harbour of Stranger Things) who he hires to train the wannabe racers.
So, expanding on my opening statement, Grand Turismo (the film, not the game this time) has a lot going for it which, quite honestly, surprised the hell out of me. The love for the game is on full display as director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) and cinematographer Jacques Joffret gorgeously depict the races in a way that perfectly mimics the famous simulator. Honestly, the trailer does the movie a disservice with how bland it was; this movie is far from bland, almost like a modern-day version of Days of Thunder. And the dramatic beats were successful at keeping me invested until the solid climax.
That said, the parts of the gaming world that should’ve been left on our consoles stop this movie from being a checkered flag winner, that part being the bland underdeveloped “side characters” or what we gamers would call NPCs (non-playable characters).
Madekwe works well in the role of a novice with a dream but the actors portraying his family, friends and most of the other gamers/competitors don’t fare as well. Each has a trait instead of a fully fleshed out personality and is only there to pad the runtime and fill out the story. If I compare this family to that of the Jaime Reyes’ in Blue Beetle for instance, they fall vastly short. Same goes for love interest Audrey (Maeve Courtier-Lilley) who Mardenborough stalks on Instagram but beyond the whole pretty dream girl aesthetic, isn’t really given anything of meaning to do.
The only other standout player for me was David Harbour who arguably delivers the strongest, most invested performance of any of the actors, including the lead. Harbour carries a lot of this movie on his shoulders when it comes to the emotional bits, and I don’t see the story being as impactful without him.
A personal grouse I also had with the movie was the way gamers were treated in the story. Every time someone said the word (gamer) it was with a note of derision, insulting when you consider who the core audience is for this kind of movie. Honestly, if you made a drinking game of it, you would be unconscious by the end. Say what you will about lesser video game adaptations, but I don’t remember any of them trying to make me feel like I’m somehow failing at life because I enjoy gaming.
All in all, though, I would count this as a win. Tropes and cliches abound but what they managed to do here was adapt a video game that most would see as unadaptable into a movie everyone can enjoy, gamer or not. Better than I expected (seriously, fire the marketing team behind this one) Gran Turismo is a step in the right direction for video game adaptations. And if this means I get to see more of my favourite games come to life on the big screen, I’m all for it.
Sommer’s Score: 7 out of 10
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Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge-Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes. Double Tap Baby! Read More