Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

“Gran Turismo” races into theaters, blows viewers away with captivating plot and impressive special effects

“Gran Turismo,” released on Aug. 25, is a film written by Jason Hall and directed by Academy Award Nominated Neill Blomkamp.

Hall also wrote other films such as “American Sniper” and “Thank You For Your Service.”

After big movies like “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” hit theaters in July, “Gran Turismo” was an excellent film to round off the blockbuster season.

The movie details the underdog story of Jann Mardenborough (portrayed by Archie Madekwe), a young adult obsessed with the “Gran Turismo” racing game. The video game models real-life racing within a simulation to an incredible degree, giving players realism behind the wheel.

Offered a chance to attend a prestigious academy for the top “Gran Turismo” players in the world, Mardenborough eventually competes in real races all around the world.

Mardenbourogh starts out as just another no-lifer, working as a clothing store employee and spending all of his free time playing “Gran Turismo” in the hopes that he can somehow become a real race car driver.

While many people, including his father (portrayed by Djimon Hounsou), viewed his aspirations as futile, his dream would be answered by marketing executive Danny Moore (portrayed by Orlando Bloom), who created an academy for the most talented “Gran Turismo” players in the world.

Since Mardenborough had one of the top racing times in the entire United Kingdom, he naturally makes it into the academy.

 I remained captivated as Mardenbourough made his way through the qualifying race; this movie has a way of keeping you interested despite sensing what will happen.

Even though the film started out slow, a change in the narrative instantly got me hooked on Mardenborough’s story. While at the academy, the students meet their instructor, Jack Salter (portrayed by David Harbour).

An ex-driver himself, Jack pushes the students to their absolute limits to become the best that they can be, training both their bodies and their minds. He is one of the main sources of inspiration for Mardenborough, and I could feel the connection as they banter with each other on the track. They develop an emotional bond throughout their experiences, and both are key influences on each other.

For example, after a harrowing race to determine the final candidate for the Nissan program, Jann comes out victorious, edging out competitor Matty Hall (portrayed by Darren Barnet).

Moore wants to crown Hall victorious because he believes he will be the better candidate in the long run, but Salter stands by Mardenborough’s side.

Eventually, Mardenborough is revealed as the winner, but not before an intense argument between Moore and Salter takes place.

This release in tension, accompanied by the celebration of Mardenborough, applause and cheers felt very impactful as the previous 30 minutes had all been leading up to this moment.

The second half of the film is where things start to pick up: Mardenborough now has to actually compete in races to get his license and has to get at least fourth place in one of the races.

Many of his races do not go so well. 

I felt his frustration as he comes close every single time but doesn’t quite make it.

The movie does an excellent job at creating and sustaining tension, as I was left wondering if he was actually going to get his racing license as the races went by.

The film perfectly balances moments like these with intense, fast-paced racing scenes.

For example, Mardenborough’s final race in the film was attempting to place on the podium at the Le Mans race, which required three drivers and 24 hours to complete the race.

The race is a rollercoaster of emotions, ups and downs and a heartfelt conclusion all in one.

The film also had great visual effects, putting on display just how much influence the Gran Turismo game had on Mardenborough’s racing.

During the film, we see Mardenborough’s thought process as if life were a simulation. Illuminated lines just like in the game showed the different paths Mardenborough could take to weave around competitors.

I was stunned when the car Mardenborough was driving  dematerialized around him, taking him back to his old room, then moments later bringing him right back to the track.

The cinematography in this film is also spectacular, bringing the viewer in close to the cars as they speed down the track. It also occasionally shows the internals of the cars during intense scenes, emphasizing the stress that the drivers put on each individual part of the car.

The film does use certain tropes, such as Mardenborough being “up against the world,” making it to victory despite everyone doubting him or Hall going from ruthless competitor to teammate on the track.

However, the film takes these tropes and runs with them, as I never felt as if the film was being unoriginal or boring.

Overall, “Gran Turismo” was an incredible watch that only got better with each passing minute. Mardenbourough’s intense journey from video game guru to professional racer held my attention until the end of the movie. The first half started a little bit slow, but the film otherwise is an amazing racing movie.

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