top of page
  • Writer's pictureRoberto Nieves

Review: Gran Turismo

Driving is a rite of passage. It's a privilege we take for granted, but when you take a moment, you can feel how special it is. The wind in the air, singing with your friends, cruising to a good tune at the end of a first date. Driving gets us places. For Jann Mardenborough, his love for motorsports, and the video game Gran Turismo, got him to take a shot at the dream of a lifetime.

More than a game, Gran Turismo has been heralded as the definitive racing simulator, made popular thanks to its debut on PlayStation in 1995. Over the decades, this simulator grew bolder and stronger, reaching both players and professional auto racers. Now, the game becomes a movie in this true telling of a player turned professional in this exciting sports drama that is a great adaptation of the game and a strong sports movie on its own. Additionally, this is a significantly better movie than 2021's milquetoast Uncharted.

There is a good chance I do not need to tell you what Gran Turismo is, but for those who don't know, it is: Gran Turismo is a racing simulator. An engineer named Kazunori Yamauchi wanted to make a racing simulator for everyone around the world. A game that anyone could get into. Whether they were car enthusiasts, auto engineers, or simply players who like driving exotic cars in a game, Gran Turismo represented a means to have fun and appreciate the automotive world.

Gran Turismo has been around for over 25 years, growing with each installment. Subsequent installments were released on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4. A personal favorite is the PSP version, which featured comedian Jay Leno narrating the game and introducing players to driving techniques and concepts. The latest Gran Turismo was released on PlayStation 5 and has now introduced PSVR 2 support to fulfill your driving dreams.

Gran Turismo focuses on the life of Jann Mardenborough, a 19-year-old Gran Turismo player living in his home in England. An avid player, he has played each track relentlessly and customized every aspect of his car to give him the best chance at winning. He has studied every line and every turn. In 2011, PlayStation gave him and thousands of other applicants a shot of a lifetime: GT Academy. Whoever wins signs on with Nissan's Nismo team and fulfills the dream of being a professional Autosport athlete. However, dreams are dangerous, especially when they fly down the tarmac at 200mph.

Gran Turismo is many things, but the biggest word I can use is intense. Audiences may be numb to the notion of what is intense and what isn't these days, but when you have a good crew and director, a high-speed race can become enthralling and riveting again. The team absolutely nailed the sheer thrill and terror of driving these cars at high speeds, where the driver is at the mercy of physics and their own skill to keep them alive.

The movie was directed by Neil Blomkamp, who directed my personal favorite sci-fi movies, District 9 and Elysium. It's great to see him again in the director's seat as the movie combines a stylish, crisp, and refreshing look. The film feels grounded and visceral but does remind you it is based on a video game. The camera work embraces the sheer raw power of speed and the roar of an engine.

The racing segments are easily the best segments I've seen since racing movies such as Ford vs Ferrari and Rush. Undoubtedly, some parts of the racing sequences are CGI, but much of it is as practical as possible. The movie does a great job putting players right there in the moment alongside Jann. Little touches, such as race prep and assembly, heighten the sensations of excitement.

Audiences will hear the famous sound effects made popular in the Gran Turismo games. At times, CGI will construct and deconstruct vehicles around Jann and put audiences into his mindset. Gran Turismo games have all been about finding the line that allows players to handle turns and curves the right way. The movie goes to great lengths to emphasize that. At points, the movie pauses momentarily to point at Jann's car and his placement. It's a slick presentation that makes the movie a pleasant sight to see.

Accompanying this is the sounds and music. Lorne Balfe composes the music, and it sounds true to the games. There's a solid use of Black Sabbath and Moby, and it all settles the mood of Jann's journey. There is heartbreak and heart warmth. There is laughter and encouragement. It all makes for a unique experience. Regrettably and disappointingly, famed composer Daiki Kasho is not featured in the movie. If you ever saw a trailer for a Gran Turismo game, he was the one who put amazing bangers like SURV1V3, 5OUL ON D!SPLAY, and Searching For You Now.

As for the acting, everyone does a swell job. As the movie is based on a true story, some liberties are taken with the scripts, but the major moments, from Jann's victory in GT Academy to a tragic crash in Nuremberg, are captured well here. Jann is portrayed by Archie Madekwe, who fills the role faithfully and becomes relatable to the audience. The real Jann Mardenborough actually serves as a producer, consultant, and stunt double, furthering the authenticity of Archie's acting.

As car engineer Jack Salter, David Harbor becomes the kind of motivating drill instructor type of person you want on your side. He's terrifying and firm, yet, has a soft spot. Jack's interactions with Jann are genuine, and their relationship helps give the movie heart. Orlando Bloom plays as the GT Academy founder Danny Moore and does his job, while Djmon Hounsou provides further heartfelt emotion s Jann's father.

Gran Turismo isn't perfect. There is virtually no time given to any of the competitors in the GT Academy. Their goals and ambitions aren't even mentioned in the grand scheme of the story. It would have been nice to see what motivated the other players. Furthermore, the movie never properly explains the game's significance to the larger culture. Gran Turismo has a lot of history that is never explored or mentioned. Such a thing may be relegated to Blu-ray extras, but there was a missed opportunity to display it here properly.

Furthering this are smaller gaps in the story that could have been fleshed out. Jann mentioned all he ever wanted to be was a racer, but I feel there was far more to it than that. Was it the chance to drive cars one could never hope to afford? The sensations of speed? The skill and discipline needed to control a 200 mph automobile against the Earth and the physics presented? That isn't quite explained, and I wish it could have to further explained Jann's ambitions.

Gran Turismo is an excellent sports drama. It's great for fans of the game and for those that have no idea what a Gran Turismo is. It's the kind of movie that is great for those who want to see an exciting sports movie and are tired of seeing another superhero or franchise movie. It's an endearing tale of chasing dreams, even if they are dangerous. It's a rip-roaring good time that does the game right.

After being disappointed by Uncharted, seeing a movie understand the assignment is nice. Gran Turismo isn't so much a video game but an educational utility with respect and polish. The movie isn't a by-the-numbers adaptation but a story of chasing dreams with cars. Whatever comes next for PlayStation Productions, I hope Gran Turismo lays the groundwork for it.

My viewing of Gran Turismo was screened on the evening of August 9th at 7 pm at the Dolby Cinema Theater at AMC Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, New Jersey.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page