Gran Turismo


‘…exaggerating the details of Jann Mardenborough’s success make the whole dodgy vehicle feels somewhat ridiculous if not downright irresponsible…’

‘This. Actually. Happened’ scream the ads for Neill Blomkamp’s boy-racer fantasy; a quick bit of research suggests This. Really. Didn’t. What we have here is a classic bit of teenage wish fulfilment, a la Tron or The Last Starfighter; a player of popular video-game Grand Turismo wins a competition to mix with real racers, and comes up a winner due to his mad skills behind the wheel. This is based on someone called Jann Mardenborough who did indeed win an online competition and took part in some actual races, so he’s much more of a boy racer than I’ll ever be. But he did not, as Gran Turismo suggests, lead a team of fellow gamers to scoop the legendary Le Mans 24 hours race for Nissan; even a non-petrol-head would find all that kind of fake news hard to swallow.

‘Good luck with your simulating,’ offers up Mardenborough’s barely-sketched in girlfriend; Gran Turismo is only concerned with our hero (Archie Madekwe) adjusting from a zero-stakes simulation of virtual driving to doing so competitively on circuits around the world, although the competition rules aren’t properly explained. He’s the prodigy of fictitious bunhead executive Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom in throwback Elizabethtown suit and sneakers mode) who has been hired by altrustic corporation Nissan, whose branding shares the screen with Playstation and Sony in almost every frame, to create a marketing coup that looks like it would have cost billions to organise for fairly minimal results. The mission, and the film, get a welcome boost from the presence of Stranger Things’ David Harbour as fictitious coach Jack Salter, a hard-bitter ex-driver who despises the rich, entitled toffee-nosed car-pointers he usually advises, and decides to give ordinary Joe Jann a chance.

Salter’s character opens a door to a potential class-conflict that Gran Turismo does its level best to ignore; instead we just get training montages and the inevitable set-back to be overcome. This comes when Mardenborough accidently kills a spectator at a German race-track, a potential liability that was discussed earlier in the film, but this genuine tragedy is treated as nothing more than a glib motivating factor for Mardenborough to win one more race. That offensive lack of depth means Gran Turismo feels like an AI simulation of a movie rather than an actual real-world story it aspires to be; if the entitled Mardenborough feels so little about the tragic responsibility of his actions as the version portrayed here, he’s a villian rather than any kind of hero or role model. Elsewhere, Geri Halliwell-Horner and Djimon Hounsou have zero to go on as Mardenborough’s parents, who tune in to cheer him on at home with no nervousness about looming injury or death to their own son; the film evokes continually evokes the potential for serious consequences and then ignores them. And for Mardenborough to be characterised by his obsession with listening to 80’s easy-listening AOR like Enya and Kenny G raises some stupid questions that the film just isn’t going to answer.

Still, the music is loud, racing scenes look nice, the crashes are spectacular if largely in the trailer, and Harbour does his level best to motivate the audience to care; Gran Turismo aims low in realising a teenage dream achieved through prowess at video-games. But wildly exaggerating the details of Jann Mardenborough’s success make the whole dodgy vehicle feel somewhat ridiculous if not downright irresponsible; it would have been considerably more interesting to emulate Rocky and show an underdog’s fight just to compete at a high level rather than win, instead of this slick, running-on-empty fantasy.

Thanks to Sony for big-screen access to this film, out in UK cinemas from Aug 9th 2023.


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  1. Terrible. Yes, great crashes but constantly cutting to the vrooming inside the engine and sticking pieces of paper on the screen so we know where our hero is in the race is risible. Duped once again by a good trailer. The overwhelming sponsorship was underwhelming. Who had the barmy notion in the first place that the 80 million users of the game would be remotely interested in the real thing? Can somebody tell Orlando Bloom he doesn’t have to smile all the time? Especially given terrific pictures like Rush and Ford vs Ferrari this is a motor racing picture written by an amateur. Would Ben Wheatley have made a better job of it? So many questions…sigh.

    • It’s not a patch on the motor racing films you mention, and marks another director washing up on the shores of hackwork. One big advert, made by people who dodn’t care for audiences who don’t care either. Many films would be improved, however, by having a giant arrow above the main character in case we don’t know who we’re supposed to be watching. Even with Harbour, I couldn’t get this above a two.

  2. This is the kind of movie basement dwelling losers want because it makes them feel that them playing video games will somehow have real world possibilities. I turn my back on movies like this…

  3. Urk. Crope. Although I did wiki the guy and he’s done quite well racing in real life so they didn’t need to embellish his story with the Le Mans thing.

    • He didn’t lead a team of gamers to victory, and not for Nissan. It would have been more impressive just for him to compete, but to show him winning in a way that he didn’t makes the whole thing feel dubious; there’s few things more worthless than unearned credit you give yourself.

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