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“Gran Turismo” Film Review: Merging the Need for Speed with Heartfelt Triumph


Levi Winslow’s insightful review on Kotaku dives into the unexpected cinematic adaptation of the iconic racing video game, “Gran Turismo.” Directed by Neill Blomkamp and released on August 28, 2023, the film turns a game known for its lack of narrative into an endearing underdog story that oscillates between cringey PlayStation commercial moments and heartwarming triumphs.

Unlikely Origins of a Racing Saga: Winslow acknowledges the improbable nature of turning a racing simulation game, devoid of cinematic elements, into a feature film. The “Gran Turismo” series, known for its emphasis on racing and car customization, lacks the traditional storytelling elements found in other games. However, Winslow highlights how the film draws inspiration from the real-life tale of Jann Mardenborough, a gamer turned professional GT racer, transforming the unexpected narrative into an engaging cinematic experience.

The Heart of the Story: The biopic centers around Jann Mardenborough, portrayed by Archie Madekwe, a skilled gamer proficient in Polyphony Digital’s “Gran Turismo.” Despite Jann’s prowess in the virtual racing world, he faces skepticism from his family about his directionless life. The film unfolds Jann’s journey, from an avid gamer in the UK to a contender in the GT Academy—a training program aimed at turning gamers into professional racers.

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Striking Cinematography and Visual Elements: Winslow applauds the cinematography by Jacques Jouffret, emphasizing its ability to captivate the audience during each race. The film’s use of various camera angles, including a behind-the-car overhead view, immerses viewers in the intensity of the races. Winslow notes the visual inventiveness and stunning CGI, particularly during moments when a car breaks apart to reveal its inner workings, contributing to an overall watchable and visually impressive movie.

PlayStation’s Overwhelming Presence: The review acknowledges the unavoidable presence of PlayStation throughout the film, given Sony’s funding and production. Winslow humorously points out the copious product placements, from the company’s logo on helmets to the console’s startup sound kicking off the film. While recognizing the necessity of corporate sponsors, Winslow critiques instances where product placements disrupt emotional sequences, momentarily breaking the immersion.

An Underdog Story with Emotional Resonance: Winslow praises the film’s narrative for its emotional resonance and touching underdog story. Despite the cringey moments and occasional script misses, the film successfully portrays Jann Mardenborough’s dedication to proving himself as a professional racer despite societal skepticism toward gamers. Winslow admits to being moved to tears multiple times by the film’s portrayal of triumph over adversity.

Faults in the Script: While highlighting the film’s merits, Winslow doesn’t shy away from acknowledging certain script flaws. The rapid pacing of Jann’s relationships and rivalries, particularly with his girlfriend Audrey and fellow racer Matty Davis, is noted as less believable. Additionally, the film’s framing of a real-life tragic crash as a motivating factor for Jann’s story, despite occurring after the film’s last race, is criticized for its disingenuous and insensitive portrayal.

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Winslow concludes the review by expressing pleasant surprise at the film’s ability to infuse heart into a narrative derived from a game primarily known for glossy car brochures. Despite occasional cringey moments, “Gran Turismo” emerges as a heartwarming cinematic experience about the thrill of fast cars and the triumph of an unexpected underdog.

Overall Verdict: In the world of gaming adaptations, “Gran Turismo” stands out for its unexpected emotional depth and engaging narrative. Winslow’s review paints a picture of a film that, despite its roots in a non-narrative video game, successfully tugs at the heartstrings, making it a worthwhile watch for both gamers and cinema enthusiasts alike.

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