“Gran Turismo” is a sleek and entertaining film that serves as both a cross-promotional vehicle for the popular PlayStation racing video game franchise and a sports-movie narrative. Directed by Neill Blomkamp, the movie seamlessly blends elements of commercial promotion with a compelling underdog story centered around Jann Mardenborough, a British teenager who turns his virtual racing skills into a real-world motorsport career.
The film opens with an almost documentary-style presentation on the legacy of the “Gran Turismo” video game series. It then shifts its focus to the character of Jann Mardenborough, played by Archie Madekwe. The narrative follows Jann’s journey from being a skilled player of the game to pursuing a career in professional racing. While the storyline takes creative liberties with the actual events, it adheres to the familiar structure of a feel-good sports movie, complete with an underdog protagonist facing challenges, skepticism, and the pursuit of success.
The film doesn’t shy away from highlighting the features and qualities of the “Gran Turismo” video games. Dialogues often include references to the game’s realism and advanced driving simulation mechanics, essentially functioning as promotional elements for the franchise. Characters praise the game’s accuracy and impressive graphics, blurring the line between the film’s narrative and its promotional aspects.
Blomkamp’s direction shines during the race sequences. He brings a sense of speed, intensity, and dynamic energy to the screen, effectively capturing the thrill of high-speed racing. The racing scenes are visually captivating, with dramatic camera angles, drone shots, and freeze-frame moments that evoke the style of the video games.
David Harbour’s portrayal of a veteran race car driver who becomes Jann’s mentor adds depth and emotional resonance to the film. His performance injects authenticity into the mentor-student dynamic, and he delivers the expected mentorship clichés with conviction. While the film’s storytelling mechanics adhere to classic underdog sports-movie tropes, Harbour’s performance elevates the material.
However, the film occasionally stumbles in its execution. Certain action sequences, such as a joy-ride getaway from the police, feel disjointed and challenging to follow. Additionally, the film’s attempts to incorporate Jann’s personal connection to racing fall short, as key moments, like his first time behind the wheel, lack the impact they deserve.
“Gran Turismo” successfully captures the essence of a modern blockbuster while delivering a conventional yet engaging sports-movie narrative. The wish-fulfillment aspect of Jann’s journey is evident, and the film skillfully balances its promotional intent with a genuine underdog story. While it occasionally falters in execution, the film’s adrenaline-pumping race sequences, impressive visuals, and David Harbour’s performance make it an enjoyable watch for both fans of the video game franchise and those seeking an entertaining sports drama.