Gran Turismo

I know about Gran Turismo – the video game. I think we had one of the first editions when it came out, even with the plastic steering wheel for the Playstation. However, we certainly didn’t take it to the simulation levels that the game’s creator Kazunori Yamauchi intended. And, I had no idea that this movie was loosely based on an amazing true story. As a former motorsports marketing girl, I’m mad that I missed this when it happened in real life!

Gran Turismo shares the story of Jann Mardenborough, (Archie Madekwe) an avid gamer living in Cardiff, Wales (holla to my sister!) with his family. At 19, he believes he is destined for greater things than what his father, a retired footballer played by Djmon Hounsoua, has planned. Jann qualifies for the virtual-to-reality Nissan/Sony Playstation GT Academy based on his video game performance. In the film, GT Academy is an idea from an enthusiastic Nissan motorsports executive named Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom). Of course, some of this is Hollywood, but the marketing partnership and GT Academy are very real, and so is Mardenborough’s success on the track.

At first, the character development is very stiff and wants us to make stereotypical assumptions. The manic marketing exec, the despondent father, the dreaming gamer, the pretty boy competition – all feel a little flat. For me, the real fun starts when Chief Engineer Jack Salter (David Harbour) joins the team to train the GT Academy qualifiers. He brings in saltiness and pessimism and mixes in his own experience that creates an equally beneficial and inspirational relationship with Jann. His energy as a father figure and friend had me in both tears and cheering on the sidelines. Yes, I cried – twice!

Thankfully the film doesn’t get overly technical with racing stuff. They do have some strategic headlines that make the sport more interesting if you’re not familiar with it. There are also some precision graphics that pair the gamer with the vehicle and vice versa. A couple of times, we get to see the deconstruction of a car and its parts much like the video game. The visual effects are stunning during the adrenaline-pumping racing, complete with thrilling curves, head to head straightaways, and inevitable crashes. The soundtrack is particularly entertaining – with some old school surprises and a dynamic score that fuels the action on the track.

Gran Turismo is a very fun and exhilarating cinema experience with some positive emotional energy. Bonus points for it being based on a crazy true story and having compelling leads that deliver great performances.

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