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Gran Turismo Review: A High-Octane Spectacle With Heart

EDITORS' RATING : 9 / 10
Pros
  • Visually stunning racing sequences
  • Universal appeal for all moviegoers
  • A supporting cast that delivers what's needed from their characters
Cons
  • Relatively predictable underdog arc and story beats

Mild spoilers ahead for "Gran Turismo."

In a world where video game movie adaptations still release with more cautious optimism than wild hype, "Gran Turismo" accelerates beyond expectation. Anchored in both the high-stakes world of racing and the emotional nuances of ordinary life, the film takes viewers on a thrilling journey that's as much about human connection as it is about horsepower.

At the core of "Gran Turismo" lies a duality that only good sports films capture. It's the story of "GT Academy" champion, Jann Mardenborough, as he navigates the electrifying world of racing and the grounded reality of personal relationships and real life. In the movie, Jann's regular life may play second fiddle to the exhilarating racing scenes, but that doesn't make it any less impactful. From the strain in his relationship with his father to the blossoming romance that adds another layer of complexity to his life, we find a character that's young, relatable, and human.

This beautiful juxtaposition of racing and real-life scenes provides the backdrop for a story that appeals to everyone. Gamers familiar with the "Gran Turismo" franchise will revel in the familiar nods and on-screen images, but even non-gamers will find themselves engrossed in Jann's journey, proving that director Neill Blomkamp has struck a near-perfect balance.

'The race is on to get out of the bottom'

While "Gran Turismo" has you effortlessly rooting for Jann (played by Archie Madekwe), each character, whether they rally behind Jann or stand in his way, brings depth and dimension to the table. Orlando Bloom does great in the marketing genius/hype-man role. Joshua Stradowski is easy to root against as fellow circuit racer Nicholas Capa. Jann's mom and dad (played by Geri Halliwell-Horner and Djimon Hounsou, respectively) also provide an emotional layer throughout the movie. It's a testament to the script and the filmmakers that even secondary characters feel fleshed out and vital to the overarching narrative.

Arguably, if there's one standout performance among the supporting cast, it has to be David Harbour. With a perfect blend of charisma and gravitas, he ensures that every scene he's in is memorable. From the comedic skills that only Harbour can bring to the more emotionally weighted moments, he takes "Gran Turismo" to a heartfelt level that probably wasn't expected from many moviegoers.

Racing beyond expectations

In the world of cinema, underdog tales are as common as they come, especially in sports titles. Yet, "Gran Turismo" reinvigorates this classic narrative arc. We see Jann's rise, fall, and inevitable rise again, but at no point does it feel stale or repetitive. Instead, the film keeps you guessing at every turn. There are moments where the story could veer in multiple directions, creating a palpable tension. This unpredictability is the story's strongest asset — ensuring that viewers remain on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating each twist, turn, and lap around the global tracks.

Racing scenes in movies can often become monotonous, but in "Gran Turismo," they are nothing short of spectacular. Every race is a visceral, heartbeat-elevating experience, transporting viewers right into the seat of the action. The roar of the engines, the screech of the tires, and the heart-stopping near misses combine to create sequences that are as emotionally charged as they are visually breathtaking.

Equally commendable is the way the film integrates gamified on-screen elements that players of the "Gran Turismo" game would recognize instantly. These moments are a delightful homage to the game without alienating those less familiar with the franchise.

More than just a video game movie

In recent years, video game movies have seen a renaissance thanks to titles like "Detective Pikachu," "Sonic the Hedgehog," and "The Super Mario Bros. Movie." "Gran Turismo" is the latest triumph in this impressive string of successes. While it's brimming with moments that will undoubtedly delight fans, it never feels like it's pandering or relying solely on 25 years of gaming nostalgia. It stands tall as a film that offers a bit of everything — high-octane action, heartfelt moments, well-timed laughter, and drama.

And perhaps its greatest achievement is its universal appeal. It probably helps, but you don't need to love cars, have played "Gran Turismo," or even be a fan of racing games to appreciate the depth and breadth of what's on offer. Exiting the theater, there's a good chance you'll be daydreaming about setting up your own racing simulator at home — steering wheel and chair included. At the very least, you might just head straight home from the theater and load up "Gran Turismo 7," "Forza Horizon 5," "WRC," or some other racing sim to keep that feeling going. Frankly, it wouldn't be surprising to see a new wave of increased interest in the racing genre steer its way back into the gaming world thanks to this movie.

"Gran Turismo" is successful in its storytelling and cinematic execution. It revs up emotions, commits to its narrative, and ultimately crosses the finish line as a standout video game adaptation. Whether you're a gamer, a movie buff, or someone just looking for a great story (that's based on actual events), this is one race you don't want to miss.

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