Review: Gran Turismo

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Title: Gran Turismo
MPA Rating: PG-13
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Archie Madekwe
Runtime: 2 hrs 14 mins

What It Is: Based on the widely popular racing simulation, Gran Turismo tells the true life story of Jann Mardenborough, who was selected amongst a group of highly skilled players to compete at the Nissan-sponsered GT Academy, for a chance to be a professional race car driver. 

What We Think: First and foremost, I want to mention that I am a competitive gamer, and Gran Turismo dives into what it takes to improve and be “good” at a particular game. With this stated, the film played in spades for me, as Jann’s struggles through the movie mirrored a lot of what it takes to succeed. And yet, what sent this from ‘enjoyable’ to ‘amazing’ in this viewer’s eyes is the human relationships at play here. Neill Blomkamp, at his best, has always excelled at making the human drama matter in stories where it otherwise wouldn’t. Gran Turismo is no exception, and heartfelt speech from MVP David Harbour towards the end kicked this picture into third gear and across the finish line of greatness.

While being a successful video game film is one thing, Gran Turismo also works as a sports film. The script, written by Jason Hall and Zach Baylin (from a story by Alex Tse and Hall,) doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to. Many beats follow the same pattern films like Days Of Thunder, but like the cars in both that Tom Cruise/Tony Scott classic and this film, Neill Blomkamp splashes it with a fresh coat of paint. As mentioned, he understands the humans and their relationships are what will make this story rise.

Our Grade: A- Only once have I seen a “video game movie” get it completely right. Few have been enjoyable, but none have played as well as 1995’s Mortal Kombat. Until now. Gran Turismo is, without question, the best video game film of this year. Not only that, it’s the best video game adaptation in three decades. Maybe most surprising is that it could be called the best sports movie in years. For what it’s worth, in one of my showings I went with a non-gamer and they absolutely adored the picture as much as I did. The story may be familiar, and the beats all the same, but Neill Blomkamp and his team have made it feel fresh, exhilarating,  and enjoyable for all. Everything a great game, and film, should be.

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