Gran Turismo Review | The Usual Underdog Story With Some Appreciable Emotional Beats

Neill Blomkamp’s new film Gran Turismo, a real story based on the life of Jann Mardenborough, is your standard underdog story that follows the usual template. The real story aspect kind of fascinated me for sure. But on research, I found out that the writers have sort of rearranged the events from the actual timeline, making it less creative. It’s no Ford v Ferrari in terms of depth in storytelling or scene creation. Nevertheless, it’s a watchable entertainer with its share of high points.

The plot is entirely available in the trailer, as it is a real-life story. Jann Mardenborough, an avid gamer who had mastered Gran Turismo, gets this opportunity to take part in an initiative by Nissan to train all these expert gamers and support one of them to compete with real racers in real racing tournaments. Mardenborough’s journey from playing on a small console at home to participating in an actual car race in Le Mans is what we witness in Gran Turismo.

Since the movie’s promos had pretty much exposed all the key events, it wasn’t really about surprises. From a writing point of view, the aim seems to be to get the emotional pitch of moments correctly. What makes Gran Turismo enjoyable is precisely that quality, despite the structure being extremely familiar. It’s like a less nuanced blend of Rush and Ford v Ferrari. The events in the movie are happening in a really short window, and the film isn’t trying to explore the whole journey of each character. The two other movies I mentioned in this paragraph have a more profound impact because the characters’ journey in them stays with us.

Neill Blomkamp, who serves only as a director this time, has opted for a more pacy and peripheral approach, and you don’t really see the movie taking a sulking pause. Maybe because of the lack of drama in real life, Jason Hall and Zach Baylin tried rearranging the events and used the accident in 2015 as the beginning of the third act. People have done similar things in many biopics, but what is underwhelming is that it was done here to make it a usual underdog story. Now that I think of it, if they had not altered the timeline, a Ken Miles kind of depth could have been achieved with a character like Mardenborough.

Archie Madekwe, as the determined, ambitious, and tensed Mardenborough, delivers a good performance. My favorite was, without a doubt, David Harbour as Jack Salter. On paper, the character is your typical arrogant trainer who tests the candidates’ perseverance with demotivation. But Harbour made that character look much more natural, and the transition from being a skeptical guy to a motivating coach was smooth. As the marketing-obsessed Danny Moore, Orlando Bloom was also convincing in his role.

Gran Turismo is a usual underdog race story that is two hours and fifteen minutes long. Even though Blomkamp and his writers are trying to balance the gaming and racing advantages through certain flashy CGI tracking shots, the gamer-to-racer transition gets discussed less here, and it is the instant emotional high of seeing someone win a race that works in favor of the film.

Final Thoughts

It's no Ford v Ferrari in terms of depth in storytelling or scene creation. Nevertheless, it's a watchable entertainer with its share of high points.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.