Based on the true story of teenager Jann Mardenborough, GRAN TURISMO illuminates the almost impossible story of how this obsessed gamer becomes a professional race car driver. Directed by Neill Blonkamp (DISTRICT 9, 2009, ELYSIUM, 2013) with a well-conceived screenplay by Jason Hall and Zach Baylin, a car racing movie is nothing without spectacular photography provided here by Jacques Jouffret and film editing by Colby Parker, Jr. and Austyn Daines.
Bolstered by superb performances from Archie Madekwe as Jann and David Harbour as his driving trainer, Jack Salter, GRAN TURISMO is a compelling study of desire and determination against all odds. Jann spends all his spare time, when he’s not working in a clothing store to support his obsession, playing Gran Turismo, a racing simulation video game series.
Created in Japan by Kazunori Yamauchi (Takehiro Hira) to be the most realistic car racing series ever invented, Nissan’s motorsport marketing director, Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom) is convinced that sponsoring a competition amongst gamers like Jann is a marketing stroke of genius. Ten winners from around the world will participate in a Gran Turismo Academy with Jack Salter as their coach. The final winning driver will then receive a signing bonus from Nissan, with the goal of becoming a professional driver.
After fending off fierce challenges from Matty Davis (Darren Barnet) and Leah Vega (Emelia Hartford), Jann prevails. Then the real work begins as he is required to finish at least once in the top four cars in a succession of races to qualify for his professional license. Plagued by others in the industry, including his own pit team, who don’t believe he deserves this chance, Jann must overcome his own doubts and feelings of inadequacy to prove to everyone --- especially his father (Djimon Hounsou) --- wrong.
Despite its running time of two hours and 15 minutes, Blomkamp keeps GRAN TURISMO humming along at a rapid pace. There isn’t much downtime between Jann’s extensive physical training and the impressive racing scenes. At the behest of Jack, Jann does spend some quality time with his love interest, Audrey, played convincingly by Maeve Courtier-Lilley --- all rather chaste. Which is why with a PG-13 rating, it’s the perfect film for the entire family --- except the little ones who will be majorly bored.
I happen to love cars --- fast cars --- driving fast cars --- fast. The moniker “She- Demon Devil-Driver from the Depths of Hell” was bestowed upon me by one of my nieces ages ago. It still fits. I found the racing sequences exhilarating, and even if one doesn’t appreciate them before seeing GRAN TURISMO, after the fascinating depiction of “24 Hours of Le Mans” --- one of the most prestigious races in the world --- minds will be changed.
Opinion: See It Now!
GRAN TURISMO is electrifying, exciting and totally absorbing. Based on a true story, it is also the best car racing movie I’ve ever seen. And it deserves consideration as one of the best films of the year.
David Harbour and Orlando Bloom share top billing as Jack Salter and Danny Moore, respectively. Salter is a fictional character created for the film and it’s Harbour’s best work to date. He plays a former race car driver now functioning as a mechanic. Salter is initially reluctant to accept the offer of fictional Nissan marketing guru Moore’s goal to determine the best amateur simulation driver (aka “sim”) in the world and put that driver --- male or female --- behind the wheel of an actual race car with Salter as the mentor.
If you’re asking why two of the lead characters were created for a movie based on a true story, director Neill Blomkamp and writers Jason Hall and Zach Baylin may have an answer. At any rate, GRAN TURISMO is intelligently written and directed. Blomkamp was an Oscar nominee for writing (DISTRICT 9, 2009) as was Hall (AMERICAN SNIPER, 2014). The dialogue in the high-pressure environment of a race car pit and for the sport in general is riveting. Harbour’s performance is totally realistic --- his character shows what “tough love” is all about --- while Bloom perfectly plays the super-excitable marketing guy eager to see Nissan make history and keep his job.
That brings us to the young actor who plays real-life racing phenom Jann Mardenborough. He is Archie Madekwe, the 28-year-old Brit whose earlier work was largely on television. His portrayal in GRAN TURISMO should propel him to future major film roles if not stardom itself. As Jann, Madekwe is required to display an array of emotions, not the least of which is his reaction to a fatal racetrack accident.
On that point, we witness several racecar crashes that are stunning, even shocking, in their detail. This movie puts the viewer behind the wheel of some of the fastest vehicles on Earth, hairpin turns and straightaways exceeding 200 mph included.
The editing is remarkable, as well. During the high-stakes races, where Jann is trying to qualify for his professional license, we get frequent glimpses of the reactions of Salter, Moore and others which are clues as to how Jann is doing in any given race. And the on-going position of Jann’s car is superimposed on the screen so we can easily follow his progress.
Supporting role plaudits go to Djimon Hounsou as Jann’s father, Steve. His support of Jann’s lifelong dream is non-existent --- until much later in the process. Former Spice Girl Geri Hallewell Horner plays Jann’s mother, Lesley. Her reaction to a crash involving her son while watching TV is memorable.
The racing sequences culminate in the legendary “24 Hours of Le Mans” in the town of Le Mans, France, about 130 miles southwest of Paris. This largest segment of GRAN TURISMO is thrilling. See GRAN TURISMO on the biggest screen you can find.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!