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A brilliant ride missing under the ‘Gran Turismo’ hood

The visual exterior of Neill Blomkamp’s adaptation of the racing simulator video game “Gran Turismo” mimics a race car itself: shiny, colorful and chrome. Based on the remarkable true story of Jann Mardenborough, actor and fan of the Nissan-sponsored award-winning driving game “Gran Turismo” (billed as the most accurate driving game simulator), this movie has a truly superficial appeal. driving academy and since then he has become a successful racing car driver on real tracks, not virtual ones. But when you open the hood of this bad boy, you see an undeniable skepticism underneath this vehicle. A movie about a promotional show is still just a promotional show, after all.

If you start tearing apart this exciting, stereotypical sports movie, everything will be ruined. “Gran Turismo” tries to get ahead of the funky capitalism on display as Orlando Bloom portrays Nissan marketing executive Danny Moore (a version of GT Academy founder Darren Cox). Written by Jason Hall, Zach Baylin and Alex Tse, Bloom positions Danny as an understanding but brash; An unorthodox innovator with visions of “unused demographics” dancing in his head.

Danny grins like a shark to Nissan executives as he describes the players that Gran Turismo “ignited the passion for driving”. From gamers to racers, he lays out his driving academy plan and wants the most camera-ready driver behind the wheel of his Nissan Motorsports car, even if it’s a win at the photo finish, even if it’s not him. the fastest. Although the whole effort of this movie is to be a “Gran Turismo” game and a commercial for Nissan cars, it’s somewhat hostile to our hero, allowing the audience to mock his work-oriented motivation.

The fastest driver in the academy is a tall, quiet boy from Cardiff, Wales, the son of a former football player who is searching for his purpose in life. Archie Madekwe portrays determined driving enthusiast Jann with shy charm, and if “Gran Turismo” works, it’s Madekwe’s performance as well as the moody and down-to-earth presence of David Harbor as Jack Salter, a former racecar driver and engineer. will be thanks. train the players.

As a purely mechanical, revamped piece of entertainment, “Gran Turismo” really works. Every time Jann moves up the standings, the audience raises their hands in throaty cheers; Such is the appeal of Madekwe’s serious performance and the way Blomkamp presents the risks with simple yet effective visual storytelling. It uses a saturated color palette to allow us to easily locate Jann and his enemies in the race, and uses game iconography and graphics to show how Jann sees the track, thanks to his hours in the driving simulator.

The script tastes like the standard sports movie without a lot of subtext – speaking from anyone but Harbor, some of these motivational quotes may sound really silly, but he sells the material with solid sentimentality and there’s a real chemistry between him and Madekwe. The unconventional sports star and his tough coach. Djimon Hounsou plays Jann’s father, and it’s a wonderful, emotional role for the actor as a father who doesn’t understand his son’s dream. And yes, Geri Halliwell Horner aka Ginger Spice, who plays Jann’s mother. Fun fact: The real Mardenborough also serves as his character duo in the movie.

“Gran Turismo” has been compared to the other recent racing movie, “Ford v Ferrari,” and not just because both films peaked at the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans. Both films are also stories of personal determination, individual success and overcoming obstacles, but are inextricably linked to automakers and the desire to sell more cars. These inspiring stories have cynically capitalist aims and origins, but again, this is the motorsport business that is already saturated with sponsorships, product placement, and advertising. Writers aren’t trying to question the work, and why should they? After all, “Gran Turismo” is like the custom skin of a sports car, however fun it may be: it’s just an advertisement affixed to Mardenborough’s unique journey to the racetrack.

“Gran Turismo” — 2 stars (out of 4)

MPA rating: PG-13 (for intense action and strong language)

Running time: 2:15

How to watch: In theaters August 25

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