Gran Turismo Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
A completely different type of video game adaptation! Gran Turismo takes the sub-genre & flips it on its head, telling an engaging sports drama!
Genre: Action / Bio-Pic / Drama / Sports
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Archie Madekwe, David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Josha Stradowski, Darren Barnet, Maeve Courtier-Lilley, Geri Halliwell, Djimon Hounsou & Takehiro Hira.
Run Time: 135 min.
US Release: 25 August 2023
UK Release: 09 August 2023
German Release: 10 August 2023
Sony’s newest release is not something I had on my watch list at all. To be fair, a cinematic adaptation of their most popular racing simulation did not sound appealing to me whatsoever. 2014s Need for Speed was just another Fast & Furious carbon print copy, plus in terms of the latter's franchise, I had given up after its seventh instalment. So, when it was made public that this project had been green-lit, I was sure I knew what to obtain. Little did I know, Sony approached the matter from a completely different perspective. So, throw on your racing helmet, as we speed through my review of… Gran Turismo!
Based on the inspiring true, come-to-life fairytale of British professional racer Jann Mardenborough, the film follows a struggling, working-class gamer, a failed former race car driver, and an idealistic motorsport employee, who risks it all to make a change in the motor world.
The Gran Tourismo games do have a special place in my heart. My first game was the first-ever GT, which brought racing into my life, in the form of one of the most realistic driving simulators. From there on, I bought the third game for the PlayStation 2, as well as GT 5 for PlayStation 3. I was thinking about getting the sixth instalment, though friends recommended I should let it slide. In short, I am a huge fan of the games, which meant that I had to watch Sony’s new launch, no matter how I felt about it.
However, when the first marketing campaign launched, revealing that instead of a fictional tale about the gaming IP they would combine it with a true story, it started sparking my interest. Who would have thought it to be the racing blockbusters' strongest aspect…
Now, the script is a real mixed bag! The first act drags horribly, as it tries to build a backstory for our lead. Unfortunately, nothing of real interest happens during the first thirty-to-forty minutes. As soon as it jumps to the GT Academy, the pacing starts to pick up but rushes through the whole training segment, wasting a great chance to build and humanise its characters further. Specific family troubles are brushed off, while it wastes time for a romantic subplot that adds nothing to the narrative.
Having said that, it excels at what it does right! It tells an inspiring underdog story, based on the real achievements of Mardenboroough, who succeeded against all possible odds. Once the movie starts to kick into high gear at the end of the GT Academy section, it doesn’t lose steam. From this point on, the plot becomes increasingly intense, the stakes feel real, the competition is harsh, and the characters start to open up, building real emotional connections. Simply said, it becomes fun really fast!
The dialogues do sound organic, though are not given enough time to linger, especially during sentimental segments. The technical vocabulary seems right, while the gaming aspect is a bonus.
Archie Madekwe is likeable plus relatable as Jann Mardenborough, whose life this flick is based on. He is a fellow gamer! The issue is that he can come off as boring, or uncharismatic at times; this is especially true during the first half. He is missing a specific quality that attracts the attention of viewers. This changes during the second half, when he is paired up with Harbour, both playing extremely well off each other.
David Harbour is the real star here! He basically drags this movie on his shoulders, stealing every scene he is in. He is rough but has an incredible amount of charm. Harbour not only elevated the lead, he also had impeccable chemistry with everyone! Playing former professional racer Jack Salter, a fictional persona created for the film. A mentor, just like a stand-in father figure for Jann, who helps him through some difficult patches of life.
Orlando Bloom, who plays Danny Moore, a figure based on real GT Academy creator Darren Cox, was pure, wasted potential. Bloom obtains minimal screen time, portraying a crappy character, who is not likeable whatsoever. Moore is a simple marketing exec who is in it for the money.
Rounding off the cast is Djimon Hounsou and Takehiro Hira, who play Steve Mardenborough plus Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi respectively. Both don’t obtain enough attention. Yamauchi not lastly out of respect for the creation of the gaming simulation. Worst is the fact that they simply hint at a broken relationship between Jann and his father, yet don’t explore what really happened. As such the emotional pay-off at the end isn’t earned.
The camera does an equally well job of capturing the action of large-scale racing. The suspense, as well as the thrill of speed, is well reproduced. There are some sequences here, from a first-person perspective, that will put audiences on the edge of their seats. Sadly, this isn’t always the case, as the editing is at times hit-and-miss! Especially when it comes to training scenarios, Blomkamp makes use of a lot of montages and cuts, to rush through those chapters, deflating the tension.
The effects look amazing but are a little distracting at first, as it simulates gamers in driver seats, reversing it vice-versa later in real races. However, those effects gradually decrease throughout the runtime. The pop-up effects, such as placement or seeing the perfect line, through Mardenborough’s sight, is a nice touch! The practical stunt crashes are intense, raising the stakes to a life-or-death scenario.
Sound effects from the racing simulator are implemented into this action sports drama, creating some nostalgic feelings. The futuristic-themed score, composed by Lorne Balfe together with Andrew Kawczynski, is powerful, just like inspiring.
Verdict: This is by far one of the more interesting video game adaptations, as it basically is a semi-biopic. Though we saw a lot of racing flicks, this one manages to feel fresh, thanks to its unique combination of subgenres. Neill Blomkamp does direct the hell out of this idea, regrettably not without its share of faults. The biggest issue lies within the screenplay, where it's only from the second act onward that audiences gradually get integrated into the narrative of the motorsport world. The first part has very little to do with racing, cars or the philosophy of GT. Archie Madekwe as Jann Mardenborough, sleep-walks through the first 45 minutes of screentime, obtaining some presence once he is being paired up with an electric David Harbour. Orlando Bloom overacts, as the slimy marketing exec, and Djimon Hounsou is completely wasted! The cinematography is also a mixed bag, delivering mostly great imagery along the second half, yet cutting the racing action at the beginning to shreds. The sound is fantastic! Gran Turismo is worth watching, just don’t expect Ford vs Ferrari. It's a 7.0 out of 10.
Did you already see this biopic/game adaptation? Let me know what you thought! As always, thank you very much for reading! Don’t forget to share & subscribe.