Gran Turismo (Blu-ray)

Based on the unbelievable, inspiring true story of a team of underdogs - a struggling, working-class gamer, a failed former race car driver, and an idealistic motorsport exec - who risk it all to take on the most elite sport in the world.

November 7, 2023 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

While I had years (many moons ago) playing and enjoying a lot of video games, I essentially gave it up cold turkey. That isn’t to say I couldn’t enjoy one in my adult life, but it’s something I grew out of and never looked back on. Life happened and other interests took the place of playing games. I know of Gran Turismo only by name. I heard a lot about it, but never sat down to play it. I’m sure I would since racing games can be a lot of fun but that wasn’t to be. I bring this up because I had next to zero expectations for the film adaption either way. At the very least, it looked like a perfectly entertaining racing film that would do little to stand above its peers. Indeed, my initial assumption is mostly true as the film touches on many familiar beats, but I still had a good time with it even if it went on too long. Let’s read on, shall we?

Based on a true story (surprisingly) of a young man named Jann (Archie Madewe) who spends mostly all his time in his bedroom playing Gran Turismo, much to his father’s dismay. Djimon Hounsou plays his father, Steve. He feels he should focus his hobbies and interests elsewhere, like his younger brother, Cai (Daniel Puig). Meanwhile, we follow Danny (a miscast Orlando Bloom) as an exec for Nissan who concocts a plan to have racers who play the game, train, and eventually compete in a real-life race. While Jack (David Harbour) isn’t Danny’s first choice, it isn’t long before he agrees to help Danny. Jack is a former racer, but he is to be Danny’s CEO. Jann doesn’t pass up the opportunity to enter the contest. The film has a lot of fun in its early moments, showing Jann’s personal life which involves sneaking out of the house one night with his brother. This is largely because Audrey (Maeve Courtier-Lilley) will be there. Their romantic angle is decent, but the training and racing sequences hold the most interest here. It is nice to see a true underdog story like this as we follow Jann’s journey to the top. The film does a good job at detailing what must be done for Jann to advance further. Whether it’s ensuring he finishes in fourth place or captioning some of the racing world lingo to make sure we’re on the same page, those details kept me involved. There are a couple of surprises as well, including an accident on the racetrack towards the end of the film.

Gran Turismo can be a lot of fun at times, with the racing sequences feeling quite intense. This is a film made for platinum screens. But the film simply runs too long. While the story is familiar, the execution is a cut above what we usually find in this kind of story. I just think a leaner film could’ve made more of an impact. Also, Orlando Bloom wouldn’t have been my first choice. He feels a little awkward at times with his facial expressions and reactions to some of the situations here. Still, if you are willing to go along for the ride, a good time can be had.

Video: How’s it look?

I can honestly say that I’ve never played the video game Gran Turismo, so I don’t know how “true” this is to the antecedent. That being said, the somewhat odd aspect ratio of 1.90:1 AVC HD image doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination, either. The black asphalt contrasts nicely with the crowds, the sky and so forth. Detail is very impressive. I saw textures in the racing suits, the different sponsor patches and each individual hair in the actor’s beards. That’s either good or bad depending on your perspective. The audio might be the main draw here, but don’t sell the video presentation short – it’s a good-looking picture.

Audio: How’s it sounds?

If Dolby Atmos is your thing, you’re out of luck here. While some studios give you the Atmos mix on Blu-ray, that’s not the case here. You’ll have to pony up for the 4K version. Having said that, the included DTS HD Master Audio mix is nothing to bawk at. The high-pitched purr of the engines, the squealing of the tires and the general ambiance of a racetrack are on full display. Vocals, as expected, are top notch as well with David Harbour’s deep, booming voice takes control in a few sequences. Surrounds are unusually active, but do add a lot of “oomph” to some of the already impressive scenes. It’s not an Atmos track, but this one more than gets the job done.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – Five total that run just over ten minutes. There’s nothing truly of note here and with the already “bloated” running time of the film (134 minutes), these were wisely cut.
  • The Engine: Driving the Visuals – If the technical merits of driving or the director’s particular style are what you’re after, look no further – this one’s got you covered.
  • The Pit Crew: Action and Stunts – We get some more footage of the authenticity and overall intense nature of the film as well as some of the racing-oriented sequences.
  • The Garage: The Amazing Automobiles – For the gear heads out there, we get a look at the litany of cars used in the film as well as some of the different categories used within.
  • The Plan: The True Story of Jann Mardenborough – Yes, believe it or not, this was actually based on a real person. We get some footage of the man as well as how his story was adapted for the big screen.
  • The Wheels: The Fast-Acting Cast – The obligatory “talking heads” feature as the main characters are profiled, what they bring to the part and so forth.

The Bottom Line

Familiar and far from perfect, I still enjoyed this film. It is too long and could lose some fat, but overall, it’s a fun and effective film for those wanting to fulfill a couple of hours of excitement. Sony’s disc excels on the technical aspects and we’ve got a smattering of supplements that make for a nice, well-rounded package that’s sure to please.

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