So whilst we’ve had plenty of films based on a game we’re not aware of a life based on a game unless of course you count Meghan Markel and Disney Princess Enchanted Journey. Here’s it’s Gran Turismo an ultra-realistic racing simulator designed by Kazunori Yamauchi and used as a bizarre business plan by Darren Moore (Orlando Bloom) , a real life executive for Nissan who has been tasked with boosting the companies flagging sales. The idea he presents to the board is that of a GT Academy, a boy racer boot camp for those who are the best players of Gran Turismo and presumably not serving a prison sentence for joy riding. That he doesn’t get fired on the spot is perhaps the first plot twist and the second is that this GT Academy will give the successful graduate the chance to drive and race a real supercar at a competitive level against the top drivers in the sport.
That driver turns out to be Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), the real life 19 year old from Cardiff whose story this is and who has spent his teenage years locking himself away in his bedroom though unusually for a teenage boy he’s not spent the time wanking himself into a coma but ardently playing the game. His dad Steve (Djimon Hounsou)an ex Cardiff City Football player, wants him to go to University and his Mum Lesley just wants what’s best for her son. That his mum is played by Geri Halliwell is presumably because she had song called, ‘Scream if you want to go faster!’ though audiences might reply ‘Stop right now. Thank you very much’.
But Jann wins a place at the GT Academy as run by ex-driver and race car engineer Jack Salter (David Harbour) who pushes each of the wannabees to the limit and its Jann who comes out on top and has the chance to race for real against drivers who resent the ‘sims’ (simulator drivers) having broken into their elite sport.
Jann’s real life racing experience turns out to be a brutally gruelling one and director Neill Blomkamp has captured the races in exhausting detail and enlivens them further with flourishes that take moments from the game with digital leader markers, fast track routes and on one occasion the entire digital dismantling of the race car as Jann regresses to his bedroom race experiences and it works well putting the audience in the driver seat. The races are that of a heightened video game and are thrillingly shot but there are moments that are painfully real notably a shocking and near fatal crash that is a reminder that the difference between a video game simulator and actual hands on experience can be death.
Archie Madekwe is highly likeable as Jann and from this would seem to have an assured career ahead of him. David Harbour brings the gruff drama bolstered by his character’s love of Black Sabbath songs and lets be fair what soundtrack isn’t enlivened by Ozzy Ozborne belting out ‘Paranoid’. Orlando Bloom is sidelined to a supporting role and mercifully Geri Halliwell Horner as the only significant female role in the film has few scenes
Gran Turismo is as much about reaching for your dreams as it is about racing and ultimately though the film is aimed at petrol heads and GT players and arguably is a major bit of corporate advertising it’s also as much about reaching for your dreams as it is about racing.
Related feature: Those Fast X cars…….
Here’s the Gran Turismo trailer……