Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing
Written by Alexander Reams
Of all the wonderful surprises that await in “Gran Turismo,” the best is Blomkamp’s brilliant eye for action. The signs were there in “Elysium,” most notably in the final fight between Sharlto Copley and Matt Damon, and here it’s undeniable, he makes thrilling action. None of it means anything if there’s not a story that isn’t properly developed and written. Shockingly, it isn’t, it is a retread of every sports/underdog movie ever. We have our underdog, real-life driver Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), who gets the opportunity to audition for a Nissan racing team because of his sim racing skills in the “Gran Turismo” video game. A seasoned vet of the sport coaches the team, it’s David Harbour as Jack Salter, and you know he’s grumpy, there’s even “salt” in his name. Salter has his own predictably tragic backstory with the sport which is manipulated to be the crux of his arc with Jann.
The film blows through the traditional beats, a confrontational scene with the disapproving dad, performed here by Djimon Hounsou, a rival in training who gets on Jann, and the audience’s nerves, in the form of Matty Davis (Darren Barnet), and the final challenge, a race at the 24 hours of Le Mans. The shot composition feels ripped from better race films (namely “Ford v. Ferrari”). Its race sequences are complemented by aerial drone work with RED Raptor and Komodo cameras, similar to Michael Bay’s “Ambulance” but it’s never allowed to breathe properly. While the Sony CineAlta Venice IMAX cameras provide a vast canvas for these cars to take up, without losing continuity or awareness of where everyone is on the track. Cinematographer Jacques Jouffret competently accomplishes this and immediately raises the quality of what they could have been, *cough* “Need for Speed” *cough*.
Madekwe and Harbour’s chemistry is the reason that familiar beats like trouble before the Le Mans race, their shared moment of realization before Madekwe beats Nicholas Capa (Josha Stradowski), a third-act secondary antagonist to add tension to the race. Ultimately “Gran Turismo” is beholden to the beats it’s supposed to hit, and that takes away from what could have been a great racing demo reel.
“Gran Turismo” Trailer