Will this videogame adaptation take pole position in the hearts of racing game fans, or does it crash and burn? Find out in our Gran Turismo Movie review.
During the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso claimed he already knew the track’s layout by playing a video game on his PS2. Alonso took second place on the podium and the question was raised: can driving games help you become a racer?
A selection of Gran Turismo games and other titles from Polyphony, the developers behind the series.
In 2008, Nissan partnered up with Sony to create the GT Academy to find the best Gran Turismo players in the world and put them behind the wheel of a real racing car. One of these players was Jann Madenborough who not only won the 2011 GT Academy, but became a successful racing driver that continues to race to this day. Discover his story in our Gran Turismo movie review!
Gran Turismo Movie Review – Story & Characters
Madenborough’s story is the basis for the plot of the new Gran Turismo film with Archie Madekwe filling in for the role of Jann. Naturally, the football-loving father isn’t impressed with his son spending all his time playing video games with the dreams of becoming a racing driver. Think Bend It Like Beckham with cars and you’re on the right track.
Racing’s no game.
Jann receives an invitation to compete in the GT Academy and wins the opportunity to race for Nissan. At this point, the film becomes a sequence of races bookended with the predictable drama we see in every underdog story.
David Harbour (Stranger Things, Violent Night) is the highlight of the cast and delivers an excellent performance as Jann’s racing coach. While Orlando Bloom takes on the role of the marketing agent for Nissan and makes the most of what he’s given. For those ladies reading this review, Orlando takes off his shirt in one scene. I know you were going to ask that question.
From Hopper to podium-topper.
The movie is clearly designed to introduce Gran Turismo to a new audience and sell more copies of Gran Turismo 7. There are some scenes that come across as blatant advertising for the series, but it never ventures into the propaganda levels of advertisement seen in The Wizard.
When the film stops being a billboard for the PlayStation brand, director Neill Blomkamp delivers a spectacular love letter to motorsport culture. While Fast and Furious has completely abandoned its racing roots, Gran Turismo fully embraces the world of cars trading paint for the podium, with superbly shot races that convey the excitement and danger of the sport.
Gran Turismo Movie Review – Audio & Music
The amazing cinematography is enhanced by an incredible audio mix. While the press screening employed a 7.1 surround mix instead of the more desirable Dolby Atmos, the sound engineers have done an incredible job of making the audience feel like they’re spectating every race in real life. Every gear change and engine redline is deeply enriched by the soundscape.
Images you can hear.
The film’s original music is provided by Lorne Balfe, who is best known for his work on The Crown and Genius. His score is serviceable, but largely forgettable. Some licensed music from the likes of Nas, Enya, and Black Sabbath can also be heard throughout the film.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the film is the complete absence of any music from Gran Turismo games. Snoop Dogg’s Gran Turismo 3 rap? 5oul on D!splay? Moon Over the Castle? None of these songs are used in this film.
Gran Turismo Movie Review – Final Thoughts
As I mentioned earlier, Gran Turismo’s script relies on tried-and-true tropes. This is a very predictable film about the underdog with unsupportive parents who rises to the top. But it’s still an engaging movie to watch because of the superb direction and tight pacing. Sometimes all you need is a fun movie that doesn’t break any new ground. I’d rather watch something well made, maybe predictable and comforting over one that’s ambitious but rubbish.
Can’t blame lag this time.
Gran Turismo also succeeds where many adaptations of video games fail by focusing on a small cast of only three characters. Too many adaptations try to include every single character from the game’s canon, and it never works. Nobody gets enough screen time to flesh out their character and you end up with a soulless parade of lifeless puppets. It’s strange how a movie based on a video game without a storyline has characters with more nuisance than it’s contemporaries.
The movie isn’t going to win any awards for originally and the blatant advertising sometimes rears its ugly head. But what we still have is a solid sports film that will delight motorsport fans and anyone who played Gran Turismo as a child. Don’t go into this expecting a masterpiece, but it’s a fast-paced and fun way to kill two hours in the cinema.
So, why should you watch Gran Turismo?
- Love watching cars trade paint in high octane races
- Superb performance from David Harbour
- You’re a massive rev head with a passion for car culture
- An incredible audio mix that makes you feel like a spectator at these races
- Want to see Orlando Bloom take his shirt off
But, why shouldn’t you watch Gran Turismo?
- Predictable storyline that lacks originality
- Zero music from the Gran Turismo games
- Not so-subtle advertisements for video game products
A preview screening was kindly provided by Sony Pictures Australia for the purpose of our Gran Turismo movie review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out more of our film reviews and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about the latest on the big screen!