Gran Turismo Movie Review: One of the Most Gripping and Exciting Flicks of the Year

Gran Turismo Movie 17 photos
Photo: Sony
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I went to the movies recently and saw Gran Turismo in all its glory. I wasn't expecting much. Knowing how fresh PlayStation Productions is in the industry, I would have been happy walking out of the theatre with Gran Turismo being "just ok." But it wasn't just ok; it was terrific. It took me through the wringer and made me laugh, cheer, and even cry. By the end, I wasn't just a fan of this incredible movie, but I also became a Jann Mardenborough supporter. (He's the protagonist, I'll explain later.)
Don't worry; I won't spoil anything from the movie. And before we get into it, know that you can't see Gran Turismo if you're from the US, at least not until August 25. The initial release date was August 11, but it got pushed back due to the current SAG-AFTRA strikes. Other countries, however, were more fortunate and still kept the original release date.

Now back to our story. Gran Turismo was produced by PlayStation Productions, a Sony studio with the sole purpose of bringing their gaming franchises to the big screen and streaming platforms.

That's how we got the amazing "The Last of Us" on HBO Max or Max, whatever they're calling it now. They also made "Uncharted" starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, and "Twisted Metal" on Peacock with Anthony Mackie, Samoa Joe, Stephanie Beatriz, and Will Arnett.

Gran Turismo Movie
Photo: Sony
Future movies and shows from PlayStation Productions include adaptations from "Days Gone," "Ghost of Tsushima," "God of War," and "Horizon Zero Dawn."

Sony is really doubling down on the whole movie industry thing. If what they put out so far indicates the level of quality moving forward, PlayStation fans are in for a real treat, no doubt, especially if Christopher Judge will star again as Kratos in the Amazon series. (Fingers and axes crossed!)

Gran Turismo is based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough, a 19-year kid who clocked in thousands of hours in the GT franchise, and one day he comes across the opportunity to become an actual racing driver for Nissan.

Neill Blomkamp directs the movie and stars Archie Madekwe as the protagonist, David Harbour as the tough-love coach, and Orlando Bloom as the shrewd manager. Djimon Hounsou plays Jann's father, who's forever disappointed that his son is always playing video games instead of "going out and doing something." I think we can all relate to parents not approving of this particular hobby while we were growing up.

Gran Turismo Movie
Photo: Sony
I'm not going into the story to avoid spoilers, but I'll say this. You know how in these types of "rise-to-fame" movies, the story beats typically are: the hero starts from scratch, something happens, he goes through the wringer and comes out a hero at the other end? Well, this one doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it brings a great deal more to the table, which keeps it from getting boring. The pacing was great from where I was standing.

While I loved David Harbour's performance as the harda*s coach, for me, the brightest star was Archie Madekwe. The dude came out of left field, and I didn't see him coming. I'm not saying he's the next Robert De Niro, but he had me more than convinced he was the right person for the job. In my eyes, he managed to convey every scene and emotion beautifully.

In other words, I was fully immersed in the story due to his acting, but the dynamic between him and Harbour made me smile more than a dozen times. Every story beat was so well conveyed that I couldn't have cared less when some moments felt too rushed or forced. Suspension of disbelief, they call it in the biz.

In my opinion, Blomkamp did a hell of a job directing, especially with Jacques Jouffret by his side as Director of Photography. Blomkamp manages to encompass every moment and emotion in a way that makes the experience thrilling.

Gran Turismo Movie
Photo: Sony
Even though I knew what would happen, that didn't stop me from gasping whenever Jann tried to overtake another car on the track or when things were getting dangerous during a race. The music score also helped a lot with emphasizing critical story moments.

The editing was nothing out of the ordinary for a racing movie. And this is, of course, done following the director's vision. To me, Neill Blomkamp was a bit too safe with the editing, but that's not necessarily a minus. The level of cinematography and editing are above and beyond your garden variety zero-to-hero stories.

Everything was done meticulously, especially during the racing scenes. The drone shots helped to convey a closer feel to the action, especially the crane shots that follow the cars from a high 45-degree angle, where you see the vehicles in "3rd person," just like in the games.

The editing also ties into the sound effects, which I found glorious at certain times. When a scene is full of cuts that quickly jump from the driver's seat to the outside of the car, the wheel's POV (point of view), to inside the engine with all cylinders firing, you can tell that the sound design quality is something else.

Gran Turismo Movie
Photo: Sony
If you can't make too much sense of what I just described, the first minute of the movie will take care of that for me. As soon as the film begins, there's a sweet-a*s montage mixing real life footage with graphics from the game that drew me in with no difficulty. And I wasn't ready to get immersed from literally the first 60 seconds of the movie.

When you take such a high level of directing, filming, editing and, of course, good acting and mush them together, you get an enthralling experience that could pin you down and hold you captive in that seat until you see the final credits roll. (Even those were entertaining if you don't know the entire story.)

At least, that's what happened in my case. I'm not posing as some pedantic "film critic," but I'm just relaying how the movie impacted me and me alone. For some, this might be as dull as I found "Oppenheimer." It's all a matter of chemicals; we each get our dopamine kick from different things. Especially when it comes to movies, games, books, music, food, you name it.

This being said, I wholeheartedly recommend Gran Turismo to anyone searching for a popcorn flick worthy of its two-hour runtime. Also, keep an eye out for Kazunori Yamauchi's cameo in the movie. It's quick, and if you blink, you might miss it. Of course, they couldn't go without paying homage to the man who started this phenomenon more than 26 years ago.

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About the author: Codrin Spiridon
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Codrin just loves American classics, from the 1940s and ‘50s, all the way to the muscle cars of the '60s and '70s. In his perfect world, we'll still see Hudsons and Road Runners roaming the streets for years to come (even in EV form, if that's what it takes to keep the aesthetic alive).
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