Film Analysis: ‘Gran Turismo’ Suffers from Overused Tropes and Videogame Sensibilities

by Joshua Brown
1 comment
Gran Turismo film review

In 2006, Nissan’s marketing executive, Darren Cox, conceived an audacious idea: establishing a competition and an “academy” to transform video gamers into legitimate race car drivers. This initiative aimed to tap into the dedicated fan base of Gran Turismo, a famed racing simulator on PlayStation that debuted in 1997. By the third year of the “GT Academy,” a new talent was discovered in Jann Mardenborough, a 19-year-old Briton who would later fulfill his dream of becoming a professional driver.

This remarkable journey offers a compelling narrative, presenting an opportunity for brands like Nissan and PlayStation—owned by Sony, which also backs the film’s studio—to partially claim credit. The timing is fortuitous as Formula 1 is gaining traction in the United States, largely due to the popular Netflix series “Drive to Survive.” However, “Gran Turismo” fails to capitalize on this, delivering a formulaic adaptation in a year that has seen movies like “Barbie” and “Air” demonstrate that brand-oriented films can also be original, dynamic, and genuinely entertaining.

For those unfamiliar with Mardenborough’s real-life story, it might be advisable to refrain from researching it prior to watching “Gran Turismo.” The film, having undergone multiple changes in its writing and directing teams, takes considerable liberties with the true events. It selectively borrows elements from different phases of Mardenborough’s career to heighten the drama. The current version is attributed to screenwriters Jason Hall and Zach Baylin and director Neill Blomkamp, known for films like “District 9” and “Chappie.” Blomkamp employs an array of cinematic techniques—quick cuts, close-ups, aerial shots—to accentuate the thrill, much to the probable dismay of the seasoned veteran tasked with training these neophytes.

David Harbour portrays this grizzled mentor, Jack Salter, with notable flair, injecting vitality and a modicum of rationale into this otherwise implausible tale. The narrative is inconsistent, initially laboring to establish brand mythology, which renders the first half unengaging. The second half, focused on the actual racing, redeems the film somewhat. It becomes a satisfactory tale of an underdog’s triumph, led by an endearing performance from Archie Madekwe. His parents, portrayed by Djimon Hounsou and Geri Halliwell-Horner, are likable yet underutilized, appearing mainly for emotional gravitas.

Orlando Bloom’s role as the anxious Nissan marketing executive Danny Moore is inadequately fleshed out. His character avoids becoming an antagonist, a title instead bestowed upon a brash young driver representing European racing’s affluent aspect. Japanese Nissan executives are depicted as nondescript figures in suits, contributing little to the narrative.

The film aims to celebrate the purity of race car driving but is helmed by a director who believes that the story requires the spectacle often associated with a “Fast and Furious” spinoff to keep the audience’s interest. The end result feels like an extended, moderately entertaining advertisement for PlayStation and Nissan, with little to set it apart.

“Gran Turismo,” distributed by Sony Pictures, is set for limited release on August 11 and a broader release on August 25. It has received a PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association for “intense action and some strong language.” The film has a runtime of 135 minutes and has been given a two-out-of-four star rating.

MPA PG-13 Definition: Parents are strongly advised to exercise caution. The material may not be suitable for children under the age of 13.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Gran Turismo film review

What is the main critique of the “Gran Turismo” film according to this review?

The main critique is that the film fails to capitalize on a compelling real-life story and instead delivers a formulaic, brand-oriented narrative that serves more as an extended advertisement for PlayStation and Nissan than as a piece of genuine cinema.

Who are the main characters highlighted in the film “Gran Turismo”?

The film prominently features Jann Mardenborough, an underdog who becomes a professional driver, and Jack Salter, a seasoned veteran portrayed by David Harbour, who serves as his mentor. Orlando Bloom plays Danny Moore, a Nissan marketing executive.

Does the film take liberties with the true story of Jann Mardenborough?

Yes, the film takes considerable liberties with Jann Mardenborough’s true story, selectively borrowing elements from different phases of his career to heighten the drama.

What is the reviewer’s opinion on the directorial style?

The review notes that director Neill Blomkamp employs quick cuts, close-ups, and aerial shots to accentuate the excitement of car racing. However, this style is viewed as potentially detracting from the narrative, rather than enhancing it.

How does the film fare in terms of star ratings?

The film has been given a two-out-of-four star rating, indicating a lackluster reception.

Who is the intended audience for the “Gran Turismo” film?

The film seems to target fans of the Gran Turismo video game series, as well as those interested in racing or underdog stories. However, the reviewer suggests that it fails to fully engage even these target demographics.

What is the film’s MPAA rating?

The film has received a PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association for “intense action and some strong language.”

When is the film set for release?

“Gran Turismo” is set for limited release on August 11 and a broader release on August 25.

More about Gran Turismo film review

  • Gran Turismo Official Trailer
  • GT Academy History
  • Interview with Jann Mardenborough
  • Neill Blomkamp Filmography
  • MPAA Rating System
  • Netflix’s “Drive to Survive”
  • David Harbour’s Previous Roles
  • Archie Madekwe Film Credits
  • Orlando Bloom’s Career Highlights

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1 comment

JohnDoe August 27, 2023 - 5:08 am

Man, 2 out of 4 stars? That’s brutal. Was really


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