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Gran Turismo crosses the finish line as a good old fashioned crowd pleaser
After dabbling in science fiction and horror, director Neil Blomkamp switches gears for his fifth effort in Gran Turismo from Columbia Pictures. Jason Hall pens the screenplay with Zach Baylin from a story by Hall and Alex Tse. Following Tetris and The Super Mario Bros Movie, Gran Turismo is the third film based on a video game to see release this year.
Like Tetris, Gran Turismo has no specific plot in the game as players mainly focus on participating in various races and competitions to advance and unlock new vehicles and tracks. So adapting the film was going to take some narrative creativity. The filmmaker decided to go the true story route and introduced us to Jann Mardenborough, who, at the age of 19, won a GT Academy television show where the grand prize was a real racing career.
Newcomer Archie Madekwe portrays Jann, who resides in the UK with his caring mum Lesley (Geri Horner), retired football player and strict dad Steve (Djimon Hounsou), and younger brother Colby (Daniel Puig). Mom is the more carefree parent, while Dad wants his oldest son to get his life together. Across the pond, marketing whiz Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom) pitches the competition idea of turning gamers into real racers to his CEO. Once approved, he seeks out Jack Slater (David Harbour), former race champion turned grease monkey, to train the kids and find out who is the best.
Since I’m not a car fanatic, I was never deep into the Gran Turismo games. However, I am a fan of the director and wanted to see how he would tackle a true story. For the most part, Gran Turismo follows the underdog template to a T. Archie Madekwe naturally organic everyman persona, so his character is easy to root for as he watches him on his journey.
David Harbour delivers another solid mentor performance giving off the right amount of authority mixed with genuine concern. While Horner and Hounsou effectively play parents who we can all relate to. As for Orlando Bloom, while he’s aging like a rock star, he does provide the right amount of swag to his marketing guru role. The rest of the cast typically falls into arc-type parts such as a rival, love interest, etc.
The racing scenes in the film are top-notch, and there are some great moments where Blomkamp correlates racing with the game of real-life racing. The movie kept my attention throughout the two-hour run time, and while I knew where it would ultimately end up, the journey to the finish line was fun.
Final Grade: B+
Gran Turismo will race into theaters on Friday, August 25th.
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