NOTE: The following review will eventually be moved to an updated 'Arcade' page.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I predict the Video Game genre to be the next big thing after the Superhero genre starts to fizzle out. And here, again, we have further evidence of such a concept. This time, the filmmakers decided to look at an intriguing story surrounding video games instead of just trying to adapt a game to the big screen. In this case, the story surrounds (arguably) the most popular racing simulator of all time - 'Gran Turismo'. All in all, a game I tried once, sucked at, and never really picked up again.
Having admitted to that, the game aside, this is an intriguing true story altogether, and I'm curious to know how it went over my head. But, as usual, it's still important to note that when a film says "Based on a True Story", that usually means the movie has some loose odds and ends for dramatic effect, and it's a term to be taken very lightly. 'Gran Turismo' is no exception to this rule, though, and I'd encourage people to look at the real true stories behind Jann Mardenborough and the GT Academy, which are perhaps less dramatic, but are still interesting!
Anyway, that's what this movie is all about, starting right from the beginning with the game's development, created by Kazunori Yamauchi (Takehiro Hira), who wanted to make a racing game that could efficiently mimic real racing. We take this concept and fast-forward to (presumably) 2006, where marketing executive Darren Cox (or here, Danny Moore - Orlando Bloom) pitches a contest for the best 'Gran Turismo' racers in the world to compete for a chance to race on a real race track. Training them all in the ways of real racing is one Jack Salter (David Harbour) who, I believe, is pretty much the only fictional character here.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to 'Gran Turismo' mega fan Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) and his family, father, Steve (Djimon Hounsou), mother, Leslie (Geri Horner, formerly known as Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls) and brother, Coby (Daniel Puig). Jann lives his life playing 'GT' while his parents, namely his father, wish for him to think about college or university and establish some sort of life path - which 'GT' will not help with. That is, of course, until he notices that he qualifies for the aforementioned contest with his excellent racing skills and high score.
The rest of the movie follows the "Cinderella Story" formula of an underdog of sorts, proving himself on the track and climbing through the ranks to become one of the greats. Of course, it doesn't come without a detail or two that causes us to question the "true story" portion of it all. But I had a lot of fun with this movie! If you can go in with the understanding that some dramatic effect is added to the plot, it's really a good time, and I have to admit that I was impressed and happy to see that the video game genre is continuing to improve, slowly but surely. Opinions will certainly differ, but I'm sticking to my guns.
One might wonder where the actual video game aspect comes into things, if at all. Well, I'm happy to say it's there and used just enough to remind us of the game - excuse me - racing simulator this is all about. And I'm further happy to say that the CG used in this movie is exactly where it needs to be - used for sponsorship tags, recreating famous tracks, and, coolest of all, often making things look like the game only by tagging the racer's rank in the race or showing us some kind of "achievement." The racing and the cars being used further bring the realism that 'Gran Turismo' was all about to the big screen.
Although I must admit that the story comes with predictability and some dramatic effect added to the true story, I don't have a hard time forgiving that. This is something that managed to bridge the gap between being a video game movie and being a dramatic racing story that just so happens to involve 'Gran Turismo'. Director Neil Blomkamp does a great job with this (along with everyone involved, including the real Jann Mardenborough doing his own stunt driving) and I feel like this movie should be the beginning of a whole new concept involving things like the video game contest... perhaps 'Swordquest'?