GRAN TURISMO is fun for the whole family

by Charles Gerian

“This is not a video game. This is reality.”

Sony’s GRAN TURISMO released this past weekend, bringing another PlayStation franchise to the big screen following in the wake of 2022’s UNCHARTED and this year’s HBO drama THE LAST OF US.

GRAN TURISMO is a high-octane racing drama directed by Sony’s in-house miracle worker Neill Blomkamp off a script by Jason Hall (American Sniper) and Zach Braylin (King Richard; Creed III) and loosely based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough, a professional race car driver who broke onto the scene in the early 2010’s.

The film begins with Jann, played with star-turning excellence by relative newcomer Archie Madekwe, as an aimless college dropout in Cardiff, Wales in England who spends his days playing the PlayStation racing simulation game “Gran Turismo” much to the chagrin of his former professional soccer playing father (an always great Djimon Hounsou) who is attempting to mold Jann to be more like his aspiring athlete brother.

Meanwhile, in Japan, Nissan marketing executive Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom) thinks he has the next big idea- a collaboration between Nissan Motorsports and Sony to hold a driving academy that would assemble the top “Gran Turismo” videogame players from around the world to compete for a chance to become Nissan’s next racecar driver.

Nissan initially balks at Moore’s proposal, but they give him a shot- now he has to find the one man crazy enough to condition these gamers into bonafide racers.

That man, of course, is “Stranger Things” star David Harbour as Jack Salter, a pessimistic former racing champion-hopeful who left his career behind to work as a mechanic for another motorsports team.

Jann secures a spot in the Gran Turismo Academy and learns the ropes from Jack as his mentor…but winning in an academy against other gamers is one thing.

Soon, Jann is put to the test to become an officially contracted driver for Nissan and finds himself in Super Formula and Super GT circuits around the globe against seasoned racers as he is pushed to his physical and mental limits, finding out that racing is no longer a game…it’s a matter of life or death.

GRAN TURISMO is definitely a family film- a feel-good sports drama that shows what it means to really follow ones’ dreams and overcome hardship and adversity.

Going in, my expectations for GRAN TURISMO were…mixed. I have never played any of these games, as the most “racing” game I’ve ever played was “Mario Kart”, so the fact it was a somewhat true-to-life drama surprised me.

The film is definitely geared towards younger audience members, and that isn’t a bad thing, but the same PlayStation audience that watched “The Last of Us” will definitely not get that sort of nuance and deeper meaning here.

While the human element of GRAN TURISMO is heart-warming, it is the racing where Blomkamp’s film really shines.

The races we follow Jann through are tight, high-octane, and insanely nerve-wracking, almost as if you’re put behind the wheel of the car yourself.

The best I can compare it to would be Ron Howard’s stellar-if-overlooked drama RUSH from 2013.

The action is loud, jaw-dropping, and knuckle-clenching. I found myself biting my nails through a few of the twists and turns that GRAN TURISMO had to offer, and it really speaks for the film that the screening I saw of it was populated by at least 4 different families with younger kids and I didn’t hear a thing from any of them for the entire duration of the movie.

GRAN TURISMO is carried mostly by Madekwe’s Jann but it is David Harbour’s mentor character that does a lot of the heavy lifting here as well, which audiences have come to expect from him in recent years being the best part of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and Marvel’s “Black Widow” film from a few years back.

GRAN TURISMO is playing at The Hub in Tonkawa as well as Stillwater’s AMC and Ark City’s Cowley Cinema.