Based on real events, Gran Turismo tells the story of young English lad Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), in the midst of a gap year but torn between his own dreams for the future and the expectations of his family. He carves out a meagre existence in retail sales to fund his true passion: spending hours strapped into his sim rig, racing – and beating – all manner of international competitors in the video game Gran Turismo.
First published in the December 2023 issue of Street Machine
Jann is a dab hand behind the virtual wheel, but it’s a pastime that doesn’t sit well with his soccer-loving dad, Steve (Djimon Hounsou), and his concerned-yet-supportive mum, Lesley (Geri ‘Ginger Spice’ Halliwell), who fear that playing video games at this critical point in Jann’s life will result in a menial future.
In the meantime, fellow Brit and Nissan sales exec Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom) heads to Tokyo with a crazy marketing idea: find and test suitable Gran Turismo gamers for a first-prize, winner-takes-all, real-life driving spot with Nissan’s racing program.
To his own surprise, Danny is actually given the nod to proceed, but finding a team engineer to take the concept seriously leaves him with limited options, especially after his ‘worst-case scenario’ choice, washed-up former gun race driver Jack Salter (David Harbour), knocks him back. But Salter has his own demons to quash, and when he finally gets jack of being humiliated by his employer, arrogant team owner Patrice Capa (Thomas Kretschmann), and Capa’s spoilt little-rich-boy son, Nicholas (Josha Stradowski), he jumps on board Danny’s revolutionary – albeit troublesome – scheme.
Jann is one of a number of international gamers who make the cut to participate in Danny’s online heats, and wins his way through to Nissan’s GT Academy, headed by Salter, along with a handful of other hopefuls, with the group to be whittled down to a single chosen driver.
With Jann crowned numero uno and making his real-world driving debut, both he and Salter have to work together to combat the serious negativity being shoved their way, not only from the mainstream race media, diehard fans and racing fraternity, but also from within their own team.
However, the pair buckle down and claw away at their racing plan with one goal firmly in their sights: a podium finish at the Le Mans 24 Hour.
My own racing video game career peaked with the arcade versions of Sega Rally and Daytona USA two decades ago, so I had zero experience with the Gran Turismo games – sorry, driving simulators – nor the rise and career of Jann Mardenborough. As a result, I had no preconceived ideas when saddling up with a Coke and popcorn for this flick, and I can happily report that I enjoyed every minute.
The action is sharp and constant, and the racing sequences are edge-of-your-seat stuff. Some of the acting is a little lacklustre, but the use of the video game’s styling cues over the real-world driving action is very cool, as is the diverse soundtrack.
- 2014 Nissan R35 GT-R Nismo
- 2023 Porsche 911 GT3 RS
- 1994 Volkswagen Corrado
- 1995 Ferrari F50
- 2015 Dodge Viper GT3-R
- 2018 Lamborghini Aventador
- 2015 Lamborghini Huracan GT3
- 2016 Nissan 370Z Nismo
- 2015 Subaru WRX STi
- Archie Madekwe
- David Harbour
- Orlando Bloom
- Takehiro Hira
- Geri Halliwell
- Djimon Hounsou
- Josha Stradowski
- Darren Barnet
- Pepe Barroso
- Daniel Puig
- Thomas Kretschmann
Circuit racing from Nürburgring to Le Mans, mixing ‘real-life’ track action with competition gaming
PLOT: At a crossroads in life, a young competitive video gamer is chosen to test for Nissan’s real-world racing team
COOL CLICK FACT:
The real Jann Mardenborough co-produced the film and served as a stunt double for his character.