Before I even sat down at the theater, the new film Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story (yes, it has been released with this awkward and cumbersome title) already had a few marks against it. The first problem is that the movie involves car racing, which –- in my book –- is about as exciting as an evening sitting in a lawn chair on the freeway overpass.
The second issue is that the story is about a car racing video game, and the only thing worse than watching car racing is watching someone play a car racing video game… true story or not. All that said and despite my reservations, Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story defies the odds and manages to be a fun and exciting entry in the underdog sports film genre.
Directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9 – 2009), the film stars Archie Madekwe as Jann Mardenborough, a real-life racecar driver who began his career behind the wheel of Sony’s PlayStation Gran Turismo video game. His high score gains him entrance into a bigger competition where the video game experts train to become real racecar drivers.
Under the guidance of former driver Jack Salter (David Harbour) and promoter Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom), Mardenborough wins the seat in the Nissan sponsored racecar where he competes on the real tracks he used to drive in the game.
Jann actually goes on to win several races – flying in the face of his parents (played by Djimon Hounsou and Geri “Ginger Spice” Horner) who told him he’d never get anywhere playing those damn video games. (Finally a movie kids everywhere can use to justify their “waste of time!”)
Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story surprises on several levels. There is some excellent acting here with several tender, dramatic moments that will tug on your heartstrings, and there are many exciting sequences that will have you on the edge of your seat.
I’m certain there is lot of CGI at work in this movie, but it is seamless with the real-world imagery and the cinematography is first rate. The soundtrack is also quite enjoyable and I’m hard-pressed to come up with anything I didn’t like about this movie – outside of its goofy title and blatant commercialism. (It is a Sony movie, after all.)