Gran Turismo is about to hit Australian cinemas, and with the tagline “based on true events,” you can be forgiven if you think this is just another lame attempt at a game-turned-movie concept. Gran Turismo, for those uninitiated, is a Playstation Studios racing simulation game designed and developed by Polyphony Digital. Originally released in 1997 it was and still is considered to be the pinnacle when it comes to realism within the simulator world and being console based is available to anyone with a Playstation system. Now in its 8th iteration (we don’t talk about GT Sport), Gran Turismo 7 still pushes the boundaries in what you can do from your living room on a race track.
From his bedroom in the UK, Jann Mardenborough is at a crossroads in his life. His younger brother is following in his dads’ footsteps, pushing for a career in football, leaving Jann to be somewhat the black sheep of the family. Having struggled through school and not wanting to push on further in his studies, he turns to his passion for racing. The world of racing, though, isn’t easily accessible on a meagre budget, so Jann turns to Gran Turismo and online racing to prove himself.
Clearly, he has talent as he is soon contacted by Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom), head of marketing for Nissan and the brains behind getting a new generation of racers interested in the international Nissan brand. Moore’s plan to hold a competition for Gran Turismo players to see if their skills can be transferred to the real world of racing. Jann of course, wins his way into the GT Academy along with other racers from around the world vying for their chance at a full-time ride with Team Nismo.
Charged with transforming these gamers into real-world racers in, team chief Jack Salter (David Harbour). Salter is pessimistic to say the least, when it comes to this idea of taking armchair racers out onto the track, his past and skill set have him poised to give the best feedback and early on, we see some brilliant pep talks where he makes his feelings known.
Thankfully Gran Turismo knows what we are all here to see and has some of the best cinematography to date when it comes to covering every aspect of the cars being raced. The game is well known for its level of detail with moviegoers getting a glimpse into what technical marvels these cars are, along with what the drivers need to go through in order for them to get out on track doing the things they do.
Gran Turismo’s story is one of the underdogs achieving more than you would have ever expected from top to bottom. Jann is a relatively young man from a middle-class background in the UK and still the youngest to win a drive through GT Academy. No one expected the idea of turning gamers into racers would ever work except for Danny Moore, who questions what is the best outcome and best for the brand overall. Then we have Jack Salter looking for another chance at the glory he missed out on previously, a pain that he uses throughout to push Jann to his best and takes on much more than a team chief role to the young racer.
Gran Turismo still falls into some of the tropes associated with embellishing a “true” story to give the viewer a more enjoyable experience. Some cheesy dialogue and acting do rear their heads from time to time, and yet it adds some charm to the overall story.
Just as you think those moments are starting to overtake the story, the racing action kicks back into gear, and a screaming race engine brings you back to the centre screen. These are the moments where Gran Turismo stands above others in the genre. While the racing sequences are intense, if you’re a racing fan, you may find yourself questioning some of the ideas in front of you, and yet to the average viewer, you would probably not know what I am referring to.
Ultimately upon walking out, I described Gran Turismo as a 2-hour-long race/car fan wet dream. You could all but smell the fuel burning in front of you. The moments the story slows to a crawl are well-balanced as the racing takes over once again. Neill Blomkamp’s well-versed action credentials are on show for the duration, but you can feel he is a little short when showcasing some of the more dramatic scenes. The story has been brought forward a decade to serve as a bit of an advert for the current gen of Gran Turismo games and Nissan racing teams not affecting the story, but there are some contradictions in the timing of the story. Strong performances from the leads highlight a return to form from Orlando Bloom, and as always, David Harbour steals every scene he is in.
Gran Turismo is releasing Thursday, 10th August, in cinemas everywhere. This is a movie designed for the big screen with a big sound to add to your experience.
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