This is the review of the Gran Turismo — a movie based on the real-life story of a gamer who became a professional racer. The story walks us through the real-life #Gamer2Racer Jann Mardenborough. His obsession with racing in the Playstation and Gran Turismo opened the gates to his podium finish of the most brutal race of all — 24 Hours of Le Mans. Nissan and Sony risked a lot more than just money to get Jann’s Nismo LMP2 race car to 3rd place. They had their reputation on the line. They risked living with blood on their hands, should the incompetence of a “noob” driver become the cause of someone’s death.
If you’re reading this, you’re either into racing games and simulators or love cars enough to want to drive them instead of relaxing in the back seat. First of all, I’d like to personally thank you for keeping the spirit of driving alive as more and more travellers (myself included) are choosing to take cabs instead of driving themselves. There are fewer cars on sale today that connect us to the road like they used to. What struck me most after watching the Gran Turismo movie was that it’s fighting to keep cars from becoming Point A→B appliances and keeping the spirit of driving alive.
Warning: Since the movie is based on a true story, there isn’t much I can spoil. Still, I’ll give you a spoiler warning in case you want to watch it before you learn anything else. I knew a good part of what happened as I tracked the news when Nissan brought the GT Academy to India. Still, the movie ended up rocking me with a nice roller coaster of storyline.
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I distinctly remember reading online about GT Academy and how a gamer became a real-life racer because around the same time, I was busy playing Real Racing and Real Racing 2 by Firemonkeys Studios on my iPod Touch 4th gen. It was unlike any racing game I had played because it wasn’t a game; it was a simulator. That’s when I started researching other options in the field of affordable racing simulators and found out about Gran Turismo — a Playstation-exclusive title. Nothing materialised but I still hold immense respect for the PS GT.
But watching it all unfold in about 2 hours added to my appreciation, not only for Playstation and Gran Turismo but also for Nissan for taking such a big risk. This project proved how good the PS GT was to begin with. That you didn’t need a million dollar cheque to get a pretty good experience of most cars would feel like around most race tracks. That’s an excellent example of Paretto’s 80/20 principle in action.
The fact that the Gran Turismo movie is making me reminisce of my time fantasising about buying a PS3 and a Logitech G27 is proof that it did a number on me. It may not pull your strings with the same intensity but the movie certainly hits the right chords even if you’re not a fan of racing sims yet. My colleague, Aryan Tyagi, who is still a teenager and gave me company to watch the Gran Turismo movie, was literally jumping in his seat at every plot twist.
Tempo, Tension, Stakes
Back to the movie, what I absolutely loved was the editing and the pacing. Even some of the best movies sometimes lose grip over the audience. You can tell when a movie is losing pace if you see people getting up in the hall for refreshments or bathroom breaks … or worse, phone calls.
The Gran Turismo maintains a fantastic pace and the editors deserve good credit for this. There’s tension throughout the movie as the stakes keep racking up. Almost like an orchestra playing An die Freude (Ode To Joy) along Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the Gran Turismo keeps building up the tempo and stakes until the nailbiter of a grand finale.
It won’t just feel like you have a front-row seat to a race; you’ll have full pit access.
While the storyline itself is quite engaging, the story writers also did a fantastic job of cutting out anything that would slow it down. There’s just enough character-building to allow you to enjoy the movie even if you don’t know anything about Jann Mardenborough or Nissan GT Academy or Playstation. So, you can certainly bring non-car people along for the ride.
I studied more about the story before I watched the movie and still, I kept getting closer to the edge of the seat until Jann (played by Archie Madekwe) crossed the finish line of Le Mans 24 Hours.
Aural & Visual Experience
Sound is almost as important to a good movie-watching experience as the visuals and the storyline. I have watched a bunch of action movies in several big-brand halls and the speakers seem to crackle at least a few times with high-volume, low-frequency rumbles. This time, I watched the movie in an IMAX hall and the quality lived up to the hype. There were no crackles in the lows and the highs were never too sharp. So, my recommendation is that you choose IMAX for GT if you don’t want to gamble with the aural experience.
Note: I’ll also soon watch the Gran Turismo in 4DX format to see how it improves the movie experience. Then, I’ll update my review to include my top recommendation for the best format to enjoy the Gran Turismo movie.
On the visual front, Jann’s cockpit morphing into a sim seat during an actual race and the sim seat transforming into a car’s cockpit were the most memorable moments I took with me. The graphics reminded us that even when Jann was on the track, he was connected to it because he had been there on his sim. And, when he was in his sim seat, he could experience it like he was on a track — minus the G forces and the actual risk of life, of course. They felt so emotional as they reminded us of how well Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo sim worked.
While there are a lot of good things to talk about, there were a couple of things that appeared to be over the top. First, transitioning the visuals from outside the car to jumping straight inside the engine’s cylinders was too much. It briefly disconnected me from the story and killed my emotions. There were more than a few occasions where the director chose to use these graphics and every time it felt out of place in a movie about a real-life #Gamer2Racer.
The other thing that annoyed me was the decision to show that at high speeds, in high gears, you could just “punch it” and the car would accelerate like it just ignited its rockets for additional thrust. Cars don’t work like that. At least not at high gears. The other guy you’re overtaking is not an incompetent driver behind the wheel of a junker. He’s already full throttle. So, you can’t just shove it and expect enough acceleration to overtake another, really fast race car.
Dear director, if I wanted to watch some over-the-top car-gasm, I’d go watch a Fast and Furious movie. I was expecting more maturity from Gran Turismo, like I witnessed in Ford v Ferrari. In many ways, it was as good as Ford v Ferrari but moments like these put a dent in the respect I’d have otherwise had for Neill Blomkamp.
Product Placements – Marketing Galore Or A Legal Nightmare
You’ll find a bunch of product placements throughout the movie, especially Bell Helmets. Although, they feel natural. In fact, Bell’s association with the GT Academy project gave me a few reasons to appreciate my 6-year old Bell helmet and not find a replacement for some time.
Speaking of natural product placements, Nissan didn’t poke around with the director’s decisions and they didn’t influence the story. What I absolutely loved about the movie’s approach towards product placement was that you’ll see the actors taking names of other cars and car brands openly, like they’d do in real life. You’ll see Nissan GTR racing against Ferrari, Lamborghini and many other cars. No de-badging. No logo blurring.
In fact, you’ll even see the protagonist drive a Porsche GT3 RS around Nurburgring. Considering that he was a Nissan-sponsored race car driver, the director could have taken a few creative liberties. Neill could’ve easily chosen to have a Nissan car there and it wouldn’t impact the story one bit. But the fact that they chose a Porsche for the scene demonstrates Neill’s courage and commitment to stick to the real-life as much as possible.
Take A Cab – #SafetyBeyondStars
As much as this movie invites us to get behind the wheel of a car and drive like a racer, I’m here to encourage you to instead take a cab to the movie. The Gran Turismo movie is about a regular kid who became a real-life racer and won a podium finish at the legendary 24 Hours Of Le Mans. In his first attempt, no less. It may impact you psychologically and lead you to overestimate your driving abilities. In the interest of your own and other road users’ safety, it’s better to take a cab to go watch this movie. The euphoria should die down after a good night’s sleep and it’s safer to resume driving the next morning onwards.
Disclaimer: Nissan invited V3Cars to experience the movie ahead of its India release. They covered the costs for the movie and refreshments and even handed us a Gran Turismo-branded gift, which we will give away to 2 winners in our contest on Instagram. However, Nissan had no editorial input or influence in my review.
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