Gran Turismo Review

Reviews Films


Sony’s own Playstation Productions brings one of their beloved game franchises into the cinema spotlight this week in the form of Gran Turismo: showcasing the unbelievable true story of Jann Mardenborough and his journey from full-time gamer to professional racecar driver. With Neill Blomkamp behind the wheel, we’re taken on an adrenaline-fueled ride as we witness how a driving simulator game inspired and changed not only Mardenborough’s life, but revolutionised an entire industry.

Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), a British teenager with an overly-enthusiastic penchant for gaming, has his driving skills put to the test as his high-scores catch the interest of Nissan. As he finds himself entangled in the biggest competition of his life, Jann pushes himself to the limit to prove his racing knowledge isn’t just virtual.

Even though I grew up with every generation of Playstation in my adolescence and spent countless hours playing iconic Playstation titles – like Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted, and Ratchet & Clank – the world of racing simulators never really interested me. I much preferred the more arcade action of the Burnout franchise or Need For Speed. Despite this, I was interested in the Gran Turismo film as the trailer’s advertisement of a true story of gamer-to-racer sounded so implausible I had to see it for myself. 

So in saying this, I am certainly not the target demographic for this type of film as I am neither a racing fan, nor a lifelong GT fan. Yet after having seen the film, I can safely say I had an amazing time watching Gran Turismo. The film was utterly gripping from start to finish. Director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) has expertly crafted a story with so much heart and intensity that I was completely enthralled the entire 135 minutes. The plot is incredibly accessible even for people like myself, who either aren’t totally familiar with the story of Jann Mardenborough, or who aren’t experts in the motorsport industry themselves. Even with zero prior knowledge, the adrenaline-inducing cinematography and CGI was so breathtakingly engaging throughout.

The true highlight of Gran Turismo was David Harbour’s (Stranger Things) Jack Salter, who undeniably stole every scene he was in. His character was the somewhat stereotypical, bitter ex-professional who trains the new recruit and who has no patience for their roguish attitude. Unfortunately the other members of the cast are mostly bland, which is a shame to say. Our main lead Jann Mardenborough is presented as a fairly generic teenage gamer – but that may have been intentional, allowing the audience to identify themselves as the protagonist. The other GT gamers that Jann trains with are made up of an international group of forgettable faces who I forgot about the moment they went off screen. The film’s antagonist and Jann’s adversary, Nicholas Capa (Josha Stradowski), is a Verstappen-esque ripoff who, it seems, is really only on-screen to give this film a villain. Orlando Bloom is also massively underutilised as the idealistic Nissan marketing executive. Bloom gets minimal screen time and isn’t given much to do, which is bizarre as he’s being used extensively in all the marketing.  

Aside from the lack of interesting characters, a major high point of the film for me was how well Blomkamp directed all the racing scenes. It truly made me feel like I had a front row seat to all the action, which was incredible to experience. The sounds of the cars zooming past the camera is something that needs to be experienced in a cinema on the biggest screen possible. All the drama on and off the track was also handled well as the screen writers – Jason Hall (American Sniper), Zach Baylin (King Richard) and Alex Tse (Watchmen) take the audience through all the trials and tribulations of Jann’s journey from bedroom gamer to racing superstar. I appreciated all the international tracks that are filmed on location throughout the movie. Being able to see so many iconic international race tracks was a nice touch, and I’m sure racing enthusiasts would get an even bigger kick out of seeing them than me.   

Gran Turismo is an excellent film for both non-gamers and gamers alike, made with such a passion for its source material that it results in a sleek, high octane thrill-ride that’s not to be missed. Director Neill Blomkamp has delivered yet another excellent movie that I believe is one of his best films to date. 

Rating 8/10