The latest film (sort of) based on a video game property, Gran Turismo tells the true story of Jann Mardenborough, a teenage Gran Turismo player who qualified to participate in the Nissan PlayStation GT Academy, a competitive training camp conceived by Darren Cox (Orlando Bloom) claiming to take participants from “Gamer to Racer.”
Listen to the review:
Release Date: 8/25/2023
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Where to Watch: In theaters
The film can’t decide whether it wants to be a video game movie or racing movie, and suffers from a first act lacking any direction, with predictable, played-out scenes viewers will have seen in many movies prior to this. The first forty minutes give the impression the film doesn’t trust viewers to stay engaged, and shoehorns in flashy, video game-esque special effects that felt unnecessary in a story about real-life racing. One gets the sense that the camera crews were given little direction for their shoot, forcing editors to rely on fast cuts to piece the narrative together from what they had.
Even once the story picks up and Mardenborough goes from racing camp to professional driving, the film relies on montages for much of its runtime, a cardinal sin when the driving is what audiences are there to see. The editing doesn’t follow the races in sequence—focusing on the driver’s techniques and position—but instead uses flash-cuts set to music, then tells you the outcome before moving on to the next plot point. A strict violation of the writing rule “show, don’t tell.”
While this is required for a film with a limited run-time, it’s a sharp contrast to the second half, which has better direction and emotional weight. After a catastrophic crash at the Nürburgring track (which has caused some controversy, since the actual crash took place well after the events portrayed in the movie) the film picks up significantly, and it becomes easier to get invested. David Harbour gives a great performance as Mardenborough’s mechanic-turned-trainer, and the stakes become more personal in the third act, the only actual race in the film from a structural standpoint. Here, director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) shines in an extended sequence that should leave all viewers—racer or gamer—on the edge of their seats.
While this may not be one to rush out and see in theaters, it will certainly be worth the watch when it’s available on home streaming.
About our Admit One Author
Isaac Frankel is a freelance writer and content creator specializing in reviews and analysis of cinema, interactive media, and mythological storytelling. He was raised in Prescott, AZ, wrote his first non-fiction book in 2013 after graduating from Tribeca Flashpoint College with a degree in Game & Interactive Media Design and currently produces content for the YouTube channel: Off Screen.
More of his work and current projects can be found at www.isaacafrankel.com