Summer movie season concludes with an interesting true story. Instead of focusing on gaming, “Gran Turismo” decides to showcase a human character who plays the video games. He is recruited by Nissan to perform against the best gamers in the world with a chance to compete in real racing events. He is assisted by a washed-up former driver and optimistic executive. Will this young racer be able to take advantage of this opportunity? Or simply go back to his normal life?
I always enjoy it when a movie surprises me. Coming into “Gran Turismo”, there were no expectations one way or another. I had never played the video game and wasn’t familiar with this story. I’m happy to say it was a pleasant surprise. It’s great to see director Neill Blomkamp behind the camera again. After a string of mediocre films, he rebounds here nicely. I hope this catapults him into another one of his signature sci-fi films as “Gran Turismo” plays it a little safe. But it’s a start…and I’m glad to give him that credit! The performances of David Harbour and Djimon Hounsou were excellent. Both are reliably committed actors who anchor the emotionally heavy scenes. Even Orlando Bloom returns to the screen as the peppy executive. It was great having him back and I hope to see more of his work in the future.
The CGI was quite impressive, especially for the budget of the film. Certain sequences creatively form a car around Jann while he’s gaming, making his passion for racing more evident. It was helpful to put us inside of his mind and see what he’s trying to achieve when in racing mode. This is how CGI is supposed to be used: to complement the story around it while being used sparingly. The underdog element of the story is an easy aspect to get on board with. I found myself sympathetic with Jann and the rest of his crew. Each of them took risks in certain ways that raised the stakes throughout the story. Although the plot doesn’t do much new, it was certainly a crowd pleaser. Most audience members who enjoy racing movies will have fun here. The race scenes were well shot and edited, helping audiences feel like a part of the action.
Although I’ll hand Blomkamp a win, there are adjustments that could have made the film more effective. The largest component that was missing was Jann’s connection to those around him, especially his girlfriend and father. I think the story would have been stronger if the girlfriend element was removed entirely, saving us some time to further develop with his family. The relationship with his father was a driving force that pushed Jann forward. If the emotional connection was explored further, the story would be more rewarding. The only connection that really felt genuine was between Jann and Jack. After a rocky start between them, they learned to trust one another and work together towards a common goal.
I also felt the training scenes were a bit hollow. It didn’t seem like Jann was really evolving as a racer or athlete much. This section could have been extended to showcase how difficult this journey was for him. The film almost made it seem like his journey came together through little hardship, which I know is not the case. Further showcasing the struggles and obstacles each character went through would have felt more fulfilling. In general, I wish the film would have embraced the emotional scenes and given us a greater payoff. The story also leans into genre cliches. There’s very little that is game changing or new, but that’s not to say it wasn’t fun.
“Gran Turismo” ends the summer movie season on a high note. It’s a fun, energetic story that will leave audiences feeling good. I’m glad to see Neill Blomkamp pivot and try something new. Racing fans and underdog enthusiasts will have lots to enjoy here. I’d say wait and stream this one, but who am I to take away the theatrical experience from someone? Check it out on the big screen!