Way back in 1997 when I first got a PlayStation, one of the games that I got upon its release was Gran Turismo.
I spent countless hours playing this racing simulator. I even found a document online that allowed me to track my progress. Meticulously ticking off all the cars and tracks that I would unlock. The game’s popularity grew a monumental following around the world, so much so that an actual racing academy was built on the game’s success.
In 2013, a film was conceived to tell this story. However, after many false starts and production issues, it was put back in the pit garage. In early 2022, the project was picked up again. Starring David Harbour, Orlando Bloom and Archie Madekwe, Gran Turismo premiered during the Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Directed by Neill Blomkamp with a screenplay by Jason Hall and Zach Baylin, Gran Turismo is based on true events.
We have all heard the stereotype that sitting in your room playing video games will amount to nothing. Well, Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) is facing that exact same issue as his father, Steve (Djimon Hounsou), criticises Jann that he needs to make something of his life. That sitting behind the steering wheel in his bedroom won’t lead to anything. Little did both of them know, Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom), a marketing executive at Nissan, was cooking up an insane idea to take the best racers of the game from around the world and put them into a real race car with the opportunity to be the driver of the Nissan Racing Team.
Having known about the story that this film is based on; I was excited to see how it would play out on the big screen. Aside from one issue I just could not get past, Gran Turismo is for the most part, an exciting film.
I was saying to a friend as we entered the cinema that I could not recall the last time I saw Orlando Bloom in a film. Aside from his TV series that I had not seen, the last film I saw him in was way back in 2017 for the last Pirates flick. It was great to see him back on the big screen again. His character Danny Moore, based on the real-life GT Academy Founder, Darren Cox, is not the most likeable. I mean, Moore is a marketing executive, he’s all about the image, not necessarily about the ability.
Jann might not be the most marketable person, but he has the talent to hit the racetrack. Known for being equally easy on the eyes as he is talented, Bloom’s portrayal of a character that is somewhat dislikeable was great. It also took less than 5 minutes for Bloom to get his shirt off and I didn’t mind that at all. I actually gleefully laughed when I saw this moment happen.
Many have said that David Harbour hasn’t had the best run of late. But I can safely say that his role as the sceptic turn mentor Jack Salter is fantastic. As a fan of motor racing, it was great to see a race engineer portrayed with such passion. Salter wants to win, its in his blood, but at the same time, he wants to ensure the safety of the gamer-turned-racers. There is a reason for his cautiousness, one that I won’t reveal, but it leads to a lovely moment between his character and Madekwe’s Jann. The two work extremely well on screen together.
This brings me to Archie Madekwe’s portrayal of the young racer Jann Mardenborough. All Jann wants is to follow his dream. Ever since he was a little kid, motor racing is all he wanted to do. Racing is an expensive sport and without the financial backing behind him, Jann finds solace in the game. He knows it inside out and has raced on tracks more than some of the professional drivers have. Madekwe displays Jann’s drive and determination with ease. I’d also like to give a shout out to both Djimon Hounsou and Geri Halliwell their portray Jann’s parents Steve and Lesley, respectively. I thought it was very fitting to have Halliwell in the film, given her close connection with Formula One.
There is much to love about this film; the drama and suspense of the training camp to the racing was all exciting. I appreciated the CGI enhancements that brought components of the game into the film. Whilst the wireframe graphics of the car forming around Jann were quite cheesy, they were still pretty cool.
What I didn’t appreciate was some of the choices in cinematography. Probably the only thing I disliked about the film. There were way too many long sweeping drone shots used. But it was the unsteady nature of these shots that really annoyed me. They felt janky, poorly framed, and unrefined. The in car, racing point of view and general cinematography was great, just ditch the drones or get a better drone pilot.
Poor cinematography choices aside, Gran Turismo is a great film and has a great soundtrack to boot. If you weren’t a fan of, or never heard of Kenny G before this film, you most certainly will know of him after the film. You’ll just have to watch it to see what I mean.
I am thankful that I got the change to see Gran Turismo on the big screen. Being a fan of the original game and knowing about the real-life story this film is based on, I think they did a good job. So much so that I might just get back into playing the game. It has only been 15 years since I played it, might be a good time to pick it up again.
Gran Turismo opens around Australia on Thursday the 11th of August. Check your local guides for session times.