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Gran Turismo

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Shockingly great and loaded with action and drama, GRAN TURISMO rounds turn four and crosses the finish line as my second favorite film of 2023 so far, only behind "M:I Dead Reckoning".

I did not see this one coming at me until I was ready to jump out of my seat cheering, more than once, I might add.

Imagine "Rocky" or "Creed" on the race track, bathed in superb photography and excellent acting.

This is NOT, I repeat NOT, a "Videogame" movie. And that's a great thing.

Archie Madekwe (Heart of Stone, Midsommar) stars as Jann Mardenborough, a young man living in the shadow of his Dad's soccer career and brother's sports aspirations. Jann would rather spend all day in his room playing Gran Turismo on Playstation. His parents think its just a "driving game" as did I going in. But the film perfectly begins with the actual history of the game's creator, and his commitment to build the most perfect driving simulation in history.

Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings) stars as Danny Moore, a Nissan marketing executive with an out-of-the-box idea on how to bring a younger audience to their brand. He wants to build a Gran Turismo driving academy, bringing the top 10 gamer drivers from around the world to the academy. Whoever wins the Academy will then represent Nissan in the most dangerous sport in the world on the global racing circuit.

It's a crazy idea. And this really happened.

Jann's father Steve (Djimon Hounsou) is a blue collar guy who thinks Jann is wasting his life away on video games in his room. "Why can't you be more like your brother?" comes into play. Former Spice Girl Geri Horner (Ginger Spice) proves she's got acting chops as Jann's Mom, who is more supportive of Jann's path.

Bloom exceeds expectations as well and is never predictable.

When Jann is invited to the Academy, the film really drops into full gear.

Danny has brought disgruntled former race car driver and current mechanic Jack Salter (David Harbour) in to train the driver wannabees. Jack is all roses and sunshine and Jack is the brutal voice of truth, driving all the young gamers past their limits. Adversaries appear, challenges are met, but not in anyway that felt predictable.

The screenplay by Jason Hall (American Sniper), Zach Baylin (Creed III) and Alex Tse (Watchmen) is a taut, fun and fast paced tale, moving us through Jann's experience at high speeds. When it does slow down, it's for unexpectedly strong quiet moments between Jann and his parents or his girlfriend Audrey, well played by newcomer Maeve Courtier-Lilley.

Every time that I expected lazy writing or a trite turn in the story, GRAN TURISMO took another excellent turn down the right road.

Blazing the track paved by Steve McQueen's 1971 race classic "Le Mans", 1966's racing classic "Grand Prix" and Ron Howard's under appreciated 2013 film "Rush", the driving scenes are superb.

Director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) creates by far his best film from my perspective, immersing you in the car with Jann and spiraling the camera down and through every curve, every track around the world. Visually, this is one of the best films of the year. I loved when mid-race, every piece of the car comes apart and separates, leaving Jann in the seat driving just as he did for thousands of hours at home, then the pieces all fly back together as you hit 300+ MPH speeds on straightaways.

The music score by Lorne Balfe is excellent, every bit as soaring as the one he composed last year for "Top Gun: Maverick".

This is a one of the most visually visceral films I've seen in a long time.

Madekwe and Harbour (Hellboy, Stranger Things) are the heart of the film as the two men's lives and pasts intersect and their appreciation for each other's talents grows. They're both great and this is the best I've ever seen Harbour.

Hounsou (Amistad, Gladiator) has a scene near the finale with father and son coming to terms that's incredibly moving. There wasn't a dry eye in our screening.

My cynical assumption about 2/3 of the way through the film was that Hollywood had taken a clever idea and then built a thrilling fairy tale around it. Stick through the start of the end credits to see just how wrong I was, as we see the actors and the people they played, together on screen, along with the facts of Jann's journey.

If you wanted to stand up and cheer when Rocky took down his opponents, get ready for that same swell of genuine triumph and emotion watching Jann's incredible real life tale.

Funny, moving, brilliantly told and loaded with awe inspiring racing thrills, GRAN TURISMO came out of nowhere and gets the checkered flag with an A+. I'd watch this again tonight. You should do the same, on the biggest screen with the best sound you can find.

Buckle up, this is a thrill ride you shouldn't miss.

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