This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the film being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Although PlayStation productions has been largely hit or miss over the last several years with previous video game adaptations such as Uncharted (miss) and The Last of Us (hit), their work on the Gran Turismo movie lands somewhere in the middle. As someone who has little to no experience with the Gran Turismo games, I went into this film with low expectations and had a fantastic time for the most part.
The major pull for me with the Gran Turismo movie is David Harbour. His “take no shit” and “push you to the edge” coaching mentality showcased in the trailers is unquestionably the highlight of the film. Although this true story adaptation from Sony Pictures struggles immensely in the first act, it crosses the finish line as an entertaining and heartfelt story that will ultimately be forgotten.
Gran Turismo movie review: a riveting good time with a few tugs at the heart strings
While the Gran Turismo movie offers a lot of fun and some genuine sincerity down the final stretch, the film is not without its problems. It’s the textbook definition of a rollercoaster journey. The first 30 minutes feel as if they belong in an entirely different movie, loaded with cringe gamer humor that’s a complete misfire given the tone of the narrative. Establishing the gaming origins of this extraordinary true story is required, but the constant use of outdated gaming references is not.
When adapting a video game into a film or television series, there’s a responsibility to add an extra layer of creativity to bring something new to the table. For the Gran Turismo movie, this is Jann Mardenborough’s (Archie Madekwe) struggle growing up in a family that doesn’t support his dreams. From the opening seconds, this conflict is established as both the heart that drives Jann’s motivation and the inner demons that hold him back. Unfortunately, the film waits until the third act to tap into this in a meaningful way. While it still offers some genuinely tender moments, it’s severely underutilized in the larger context of the story.
It’s apparent that director Neill Blomkamp is incredibly passionate about delivering a racing experience that feels simultaneously authentic and unbelievable. Similar to the boxing matches in Creed III, there are specific stylistic touches emphasized in the races that will surely garner mixed reviews, but the choice to pick a style and stick with it is a winning one. Earth-shattering sound radiates off the theater walls around every turn, and innovative visuals accentuate the smallest engine parts to create an experience unlike any other.
Where the Gran Turismo movie fails, and the larger problem with video game adaptations
If you’re going to commit to a live action video game adaptation such as the Gran Turismo movie, there is a responsibility to remain faithful to the source material while fleshing out different aspects and adjusting small things to make it worthwhile. Dare to be different, brilliant, and do something to make your film stand out from the rest. The shining example of this comes in The Last of Us episode three, which is arguably the most beautiful and important addition to a video game adaptation of all time.
The aforementioned relationship between Jann and his family, particularly his father Steve Mardenborough (Djimon Hounsou), is where the Gran Turismo movie had a chance to do something truly special. Unfortunately, it opts for more time on the track and focuses on a strange love interest that comes out of nowhere and lacks any sufficient chemistry. The races are an undeniable shot of adrenaline. However, quality and entertaining on-track scenes are a bare minimum requirement for a movie adapted from a racing simulator, and thus not enough to deliver a truly special experience. By no means is the Gran Turismo movie a bad film, merely a fun outing weighed down by disappointingly safe choices at every turn.
The Gran Turismo movie isn’t winning any Oscars, but it still has a lot to offer
Ultimately, the Gran Turismo movie won’t be bringing home any awards, but it’s a gripping good time if you have the guts to fight through the first 30–45 minutes. As is a recurring theme with David Harbour, he puts his whole heart into his performances as Jack Salter. Between his magnetic acting, mesmerizing on-track directing, and some sentimental moments down the final stretch, the Gran Turismo movie is absolutely worth a trip to the theater.
The Gran Turismo movie, which is based on a true story, is set to hit theaters August 25. Follow the Agents of Fandom socials for all the latest news and reviews.
'Gran Turismo' Review'Gran Turismo' Review
- David Harbour and more David Harbour
- Fun races
- Tender emotional moments near the end
- Brutal first act
- Some cringe humor
- Afraid to commit to the heart of the story