GRAN TURISMO Review: This Is Not a Game. It's Barely a Movie.

David Harbour valiantly performs CPR on director Neill Blomkamp's latest. Orlando Bloom, Archie Madekwe, and Djimon Hounsou also appear.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
GRAN TURISMO Review: This Is Not a Game. It's Barely a Movie.

Shut up and drive.

Gran Turismo
The film opens Friday, August 25, in movie theaters everywhere, via Sony Pictures.

It's a true story, as we're told over and over again. Also: it's not a game, as we're told over and over again.

Director Neill Blomkamp made a trio of feature films that I very much enjoyed (District 9, 2009; Elysium, 2013; Chappie, 2015), but I haven't seen the shorts he's made since then, nor the horror-thriller Demonic (2021), so Gran Turismo caught me by surprise. It is, I believe, the first film he's made that is based on a true story.

Young gamer Jann (Archie Madekwe), raised in a working class background by diligent but disapproving parents (Djimon Hounsou, Geri Halliwell Horner), wins a competition and heads to a driving training academy sponsored by a car company, which promises that the winner will be able to compete in a real-life race car in real-life automobile races.

Marketing guru Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom) pitches the idea and then must convince a seasoned professional to train the drivers, which he finds in former professional race car driver turned race car mechanic Jack Salter (David Harbour), who has grown disgruntled with his current employer. Salter must then winnow the initial class of ten amateur candidates down until he determines the best candidate to race professionally.

It's a preposterous idea, but it's true!

The writers -- Jason Hall and Zach Baylin, who are credited for the screenplay; from a story credited to Jason Hall and Alex Tse -- do their best to construct a framework for director Neill Blomkamp to work his visual magic, but there's only so much you can do to dramatize a (true!) story that seeks to serve its corporate masters. Certainly, it's an honorable attempt to inject a familiar narrative trajectory with increased razzle-dazzle through its visuals, and if your idea of a good time is to watch someone else play a video game for more than two hours, Gran Turismo is overflowing with careening, swooping, speeding camera moves and chaos that is only occasionally controlled.

It's up to David Harbour to bring heart and soul into the picture, and he does his very best to place a human being at the center of the chaos. He's been a personal favorite for a very long time, first because he jumped off the screen in his supporting roles, and then because he convincingly portrays larger-than-life characters in starring roles.

His Jack Salter here is magnificently crusty, a classic grouch yet with a never-say-die optimistic spin on a dark soul, someone who has seen tragedy, confronted it, and emerged a better person. David Harbour is the best reason to see Gran Turismo on a very large screen, with the sound turned up. He's a magnetic presence and he easily carries the picture, giving it whatever weight it possesses.

Gran Turismo

  • Neill Blomkamp
  • Jason Hall
  • Zach Baylin
  • Orlando Bloom
  • David Harbour
  • Darren Barnet
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Archie MadekweDavid HarbourDjimon HounsouNeill BlomkampOrlando BloomSonyJason HallZach BaylinDarren BarnetActionAdventureDrama

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