Gran Turismo is directed by Neill Blomkamp, who burst onto the scene with District 9 (2009) but has since failed to reach the same heights. Archie Madekwe, David Harbour, and Orlando Bloom star in the true story of a successful gamer who uses his Gran Turismo video game skills in the real world of racing.
Jann Mardenborough (Madekwe) is the gamer at the center of the film, and as unique as the idea of transferring video game skills to real sports is, Gran Turismo’s plot is comprised solely of all the sports movie cliches you could possibly imagine. To name a few:
- ✅ A training montage set to inspirational music
- ✅ He loses all the races until the one he absolutely must win
- ✅ A tragedy in the second act
- ✅ A wounded mentor who suffers from the same doubts as the protagonist
- ✅ A supportive but shallowly developed female figure
- ✅ A disapproving father who maybe comes around just in time for the big race
- ✅ A grudgingly approving mother who disappears most of the film
- ✅ An unlikeable but undeveloped rival (X2)
- ✅ The expected outcomes for each of the sporting events
I knew nothing about the true story, but every beat of Gran Turismo is easy to predict at every turn.
As rote as the story is, Gran Turismo is expertly shot, choreographed, and constructed by Blomkamp and his technical team. Just as Days of Thunder (1990) revolutionized how motor sports were shot, Gran Turismo presumably uses drone cameras and other inventive camera placements to convey the speed and feel of the races.
The perspective is also subjective, as Blomkamp uses CGI overlays to simulate what Mardenborough sees when he’s racing: the character sees the real world and the game world as one, and the CGI overlays make this apparent in effective and compelling ways.
It’s likely that people who like motor sports more than I do will get more mileage out of Gran Turismo; I went to one NASCAR race and fell asleep. But for anyone who has seen too many sports movies, Gran Turismo’s cliches make the story run out of gas.