Commercials are meant to convince and are often made to be compelling in order to do so. I've been emotionally affected by plenty of life insurance ads over the years, but Gran Turismo takes things to another level in what is essentially a two hour and fifteen-minute endorsement of the Sony, PlayStation, Nissan, and Gran Turismo brand as a whole. To dismiss this as little more than an advertisement would be a mistake though as Gran Turismo is arguably the way in which Hollywood should be operating and approaching tentpole films in 2023. Utilizing the brand as an excuse to hire interesting directors such as Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium, Chappie) who can handle the logistics of these large productions while adding his unique stamp and essentially earmarking a genre movie around said brand is a win/win situation. In this capacity, not only do all of these companies get to slap their names all over everything in justifiable ways, but the creatives are given license to do things like take a shot at making their own sports movie that, while still adhering to the hallmarks of the genre, is not only well-executed, but more importantly - both convincing and compelling. 

And Gran Turismo is very well-executed. The visual prowess and scale of the film not only sell the stakes and intensity of the sport in question, but also on Blomkamp's skill as a director in what is easily his best film since his 2009 debut. Josha Stradowski is immediately set-up as the villain and main adversary of the piece as the former employer to David Harbour's once promising racer, Jack Salter. Orlando Bloom is a Nissan marketing guy who comes up with the scheme to pull in the best simulator racers to see if they can compete in real-world scenarios. Bloom's character hires Salter as the gamer's trainer which introduces us to Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) a dedicated GT player who has a complicated relationship with his father (Djimon Hounsou) regarding his passions. All of these elements putting in play the underdog arc, the mentor/student relationship that slowly builds to an unbreakable bond, the father/son reconciliation, and hell - they even throw in a romantic interest (Maeve Courtier-Lilley) for good measure.

© Sony Pictures

Each of these could go the way of extreme cheese given they’re rather reliable tropes of the genre, but Blomkamp and co. use the singularities of the racing world as well as the uniqueness of Jann’s predicament to layer in fresh feeling folds atop the otherwise standard structure. It’s funny, because the whole conflict between Jann and his father has to deal with the amount of time Jann spends in front of a screen playing video games with the triumph of the story being that it pays off which is such the exception to the standard, but just as I began to somewhat dismiss the idea of there being any credible subtext or weight to the film’s messaging as it seemed more to fulfil a fantasy than encourage a reality the film brought in a moment to also acknowledge the reality and dangers of the sport. This fortunately grounds the delusion that Jann achieved what he did because he was a typical gamer, but more because his interest was first in the mechanics of racing and the cars he was racing rather than only playing video games. Much credit to Harbour as well who carries so much of the emotional weight of this film that he would be justified in garnering a Supporting Actor nom for a video game movie. 

Finally, if nothing else convinces you this is worth seeing on a big screen with an incredible sound system (preferably IMAX if you have the option) then know this: Ginger Spice plays the mom. You’re welcome.

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