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Review: Gran Turismo – “Some great and exhilarating racing sequences”

Gran Turismo

This is a difficult review to write, mostly because of how underwhelmed I felt at what is a truly remarkable story and my love for motorsports.

For background, I was brought up in a house where car racing was always on, my dad was an amateur rally driver in his younger days. I always wanted to be a race car driver but it was a pipe dream, back then. So, the story of how one young man went from sim-racer to the real thing, is quite a phenomenal achievement. I’ve been a PS fanboy since PlayStation One and have played Gran Turismo on most of the PlayStation consoles over the years. It is a truly fantastic simulator.

Bringing this story to life is Neill Blomkamp; a man known for sci-fi. An odd choice but many directors switch genres, it’s not a “thing”, is it?

Well, in this case, yes. Gran Turismo is a motorsport film made by a bunch of people who have no idea how motorsports operate or run.

The constant eye-rolling of cliched inaccuracies and poorly written script make the two-and-a-half-hour runtime a bit of a chore. There are no consequences for the actions of most of the drivers, even ones where they’d be shown a black flag for reckless endangerment of other drivers, no red flags (race stopped) for serious accidents that litter the track with debris or cars on fire.

No one in Wales has a Welsh accent, especially in Ely where inhabitants have a very strong Cardiff accent. As Ely is close by and knowing the accent, this will be quite off-putting for those in South Wales, where a proportionate part of the film is set. There is a small scene where Jann and his dad are at a railway station and the trains are clearly those from the US, not British trains.

The sequences set at Silverstone race circuit aren’t at Silverstone and anyone who has knowledge of the track will notice this.

Blomkamp has chosen a lot of CGI/ VFX for the car racing and it is easy to tell, there are some very silly moments where out of nowhere we get graphics showing achievements unlocked by Jann. They feel very much out of place and they don’t work.

There are some moments where they do use VFX to display some of the workings of the car and a great moment where the race car explodes out into all its components, which dissolve to show Jann back in his bedroom playing Gran Turismo on his PS5.

Another part that either ended up on the editing floor room or was completely ignored is the transition Jann and the other entrants of the GT academy would have experienced racing in the wet and at night. This is a huge skill to learn and would have made for some great scenes, but there is nothing.

According to the filmmakers, getting your FIA licence means racing and finishing in the top 4 once. I agree you can’t put in the full timeline but you can easily use dates and expand the knowledge to not show how hard a thing this is. I felt this somewhat devalued what Jann achieved.

Archie Madekwe, as Jann, comes away from the film as its main plus. He is on another level to everyone in the film. I like David Harbour, he is good, but this is not a great performance. Orlando Bloom is awful, but there is no change. He is another actor that I don’t know how he got signed in the first place. Djimon Hounsou is always a pleasure to watch and the choice of Gerri Halliwell Horner seems rather odd and it didn’t really work for me.

There are some great and exhilarating racing sequences and the actual tracks they use to race after Jann is competing are the real deal with the likes of the Red Bull Ring in Austria, Dubai Autodrome and Le Mans. You get emotionally attached to Jann, mostly from Madekwe’s performance. We already know how it turns out, yet you still get invested.

The story deserves so much more than what we have been given. A better film could be there if this version it didn’t fail on nearly every level.

Hopefully, it will inspire more youngsters to get involved and pick up an interest in motorsports, hoping to emulate what Jann Mardenborough has achieved. It certainly won’t do PS and the Gran Turismo franchise any harm. I don’t have the latest version but I have looked into it and getting a steering wheel and pedals and recapture my love for the greatest racing sim.

My cinema partner in crime, Stuart, said that Blomkamp has missed a trick by not utilizing PS’s trophy system notification to show Jann achieving his ultimate goal. He has tweeted the director but has yet to hear back from him.

I saw Harbour and Bloom being interviewed at the Monaco GP and it seems neither of them are race fans. They came across very poorly in how they approached their roles and this really hurt my opinion of the film.

Overall, for the average viewer, not interested in the sport, you will enjoy it, but it certainly isn’t up to the standard of other films in the genre, especially when you look at James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari: Le Man ’66.

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