Hot off the phenomenal success of the TV version of The Last of Us, and the terrific box results of the Uncharted movie before, PlayStation Productions have now wheeled in their latest videogame adaptation in the form of Gran Turismo.
Whereas the other properties had cinematic DNA to guide their development for screen, Gran Turismo is simply a racing simulator with no narrative or characters, unless the racing itself is considered the story. But writers Zach Baylin and Jason Hall, whose combined credits include Creed III and American Sniper, are more creative than that. To express the thrills of the game series and all its acclaimed qualities – the visual detail, the challenges, the degree of simulation – they’ve found the perfect outlet in the true story of Jann Mardenborough.
Jann (played by Archie Madekwe) is a simple lad from Cardiff: he’s obsessed with playing Gran Turismo, and loves listening to Kenny G and Enya. He divides his time between his expensive console setup at home and the communal experience at an arcade bar, where he’s alerted that his record-setting skill has been scouted by a motorsport executive, Danny (Orlando Bloom), who’s setting up a tournament for the best GT players in the world to compete in actual race cars on actual tracks.
This propels the protagonist on his journey to the top, and it’s a path laden with every single can-do sports movie cliché one can think of. If the rags-to-riches arc didn’t have a real-life baseline, it would play out as a wholesome fantasy, with every beat captured through a thick, sentimental lens. Factual basis or not, though, Jann’s story is just an engine for plenty of slick racing sequences, which savvily blur the lines between actual stunt work and gameplay footage that works as handy promo for the IP.
The old-fashioned screenplay has zero room for nuance or subtext, but the simplicity benefits a picture based on a globally successful franchise. The dialogue will be the easiest set of subtitles to translate anywhere, given there’s no specificity to any character or culture. Powering this vehicle is a mixed bag of performances, ranging from an okay Madekwe to a scenery-chewing Bloom to an always-reliable Djimon Honsou as Jann’s father. Then there’s David Harbour as Jack Salter, a loveable rogue of a coach who could have been a contender, but can at least settle for being the best character in this flick.
Overall, Gran Turismo fans will be pleased, and casual moviegoers will find enough entertainment value here, too.
Gran Turismo is released nationwide on 9th August 2023.
Watch the trailer for Gran Turismo here: