Archie Madekwe and David Harbour star in Columbia Pictures GRAN TURISMO.  Photo by: Gordon Timpen

Review: “Gran Turismo”

By: Robert Prentice

Haven’t we all thought that we were the best player of a game, and wanted it to turn into something more real? Quit our day jobs and earn a living playing games. E-sports has become a reality in the last decade but this story goes to another level when a young man playing a racing simulator ends up behind the wheel of a real race car and it’s based on a true story.

A player wins a series of Nissan-sponsored video game competitions through his gaming skills and becomes a real-life professional race car driver.


Video game adaptions tend to be hit-and-miss. Well, let’s be fair, mostly miss. Sonic is probably the most recent example of a good adaption that has gone on to make 2 successful films with more content on the way. Where Gran Turismo differs is that is a “based on a true story” biopic (of sorts) that follows the real-life story of a top player of the Gran Turismo game making his way into the world of professional car racing. It seems unfair to lump it into the biopic category with the likes of Oppenheimer, but it is a dramatization of a factual story.

The story follows the real-life events of Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) as he goes from video game racing to professional car racing. The film’s director Neill Blomkamp, brings with him some high expectations for the storytelling. From that standpoint, the film did a good job of sound editing and cinematography to help us feel like we are racing with the drivers. We also learn a bit more about the game itself and how its creator put an enormous amount of technical and locational accuracy into the game to make it one of the first realistic racing simulators on the market.

However, the film has come under some scrutiny over its change in the order of certain events. Now while this is based on a real-life story, it’s not like what happens is a spoiler, because well it’s already out there but here is your warning anyways. In the film, the writers made the decision to change the events of Jann’s crash at Nürburgring Nordschleife, and his 3rd place finish at 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.

The film pits the crash ahead of the 3rd place win as a motivation for Jann to continue racing and adds a level of drama and audience cheering when he does finally hit the podium in a race. However, given the real-life Mardenborough’s involvement in the writing of the story, many have questioned why this was changed. In the end, the results remain the same in the story, and both events even if out of order, are still factual. Whenever you translate a real-life story into a film, elements are usually changed to create drama and build suspense in the story. Whether that change turns off viewers remains to be seen.

The leading cast is rounded out by several all-star callouts including Orlando Bloom as the marketing executive at Nissan, David Harbour as Jack Salter (former pro racer and team leader for Mardenborough), and Djimon Hounsou as Jann’s father. Overall for a film of this category, it was entertaining and fun, and these types of films seem to be few and far lately. While it doesn’t rise to the level of other biopics in that category, as a video game-inspired true-life story, it’s narratively sound and brought cheers and celebration from the audience at the end, and frankly, that’s all it needed to do.

Gran Turismo is in theaters on August 25th.

© Sony Pictures 2023

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