Gran Turismo

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Gran Turismo
dir Neill Blomkamp
scr Jason Hall, Zach Baylin
prd Doug Belgrad, Dana Brunetti, Asad Qizilbash, Carter Swan
with Archie Madekwe, David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Takehiro Hira, Darren Barnet, Djimon Hounsou, Geri Halliwell Horner, Daniel Puig, Josha Stradowski, Thomas Kretschmann, Maeve Courtier-Lilley, Emelia Hartford
release UK 11.Aug.23,
US 25.Aug.23
23/US Columbia 2h14

bloom hounsou horner
london film fest

Is it streaming?

madekew and harbour
Rather than simply adapting the videogame series, this rousing adventure uses a true story to include both whizzy race-car action and a whole range of personal drama. The screenplay takes broad liberties with real events, but it's assembled in a way that's thoroughly engaging. And director Neill Blomkamp puts the audience right into the cars using thrilling camerawork, superb effects and a sound mix that vibrates the bones.
In Cardiff, 19-year-old Jann Mardenborough (Madekwe) is determined to be a race driver, but his parents (Hounsou and Horner) know the sport is only accessible to the wealthy. Then Jann gets into a competition staged by marketing manager Danny (Bloom), as top players of the Gran Turismo simulator attend an academy run by cynical ex-racer Jack (Harbour). Against the odds, Jann beats the other contenders, winning a spot on the Nissan team so he can race against the big boys. Have years of gaming given him the skills to compete in such an elite sport?
Even with the extended running time, the film's pace never drags, charging through sequences with visceral cinematic energy. Eye-catching digital tricks blur lines between simulations and the real thing, often to exhilarating effect. Despite continual product placement, the focus remains tightly on the characters, allowing the audience experience the tension, determination and excitement of each race. So it doesn't really matter that the film gets rather melodramatic, including over-emotional interaction between Jann and his parents and an only half-developed romance with a girl (Courtier-Lilley) back home.

Madekwe has terrific screen presence as Jann, and his evolution from inarticulate gamer into a confident celebrity driver is beautifully played. He also creates terrific chemistry with both Horner and Hounsou. His scenes with Harbour are even better. Indeed, Harbour nearly steals the film with a natural, energetic turn as the complex, charismatic Jack, whose life experiences fuel the plot's momentum. Bloom and Barnet (as a fellow "sim" driver) also get some strong moments, as does Stadowski, who deserved more texture as the token villainous rival.

Along with these simplified characters, the script almost absurdly reshapes Jann's story into the standard blockbuster structure, stretching it to epic length. Many of the side roles are either clearly fictionalised or stripped back to the bare basic requirements, eliminating nuance and complexity. Thankfully, all of this is poured into the bond between Jann and Jack, which is strong enough to keep us invested. And the skilful filmmaking is more than entertaining.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 1.Aug.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall