Gran Turismo (Christian Movie Review)
About The Movie
It turns out that sometimes the key to achieving your dreams is simply to play countless hours of video games! (My younger self feels so vindicated.) Gran Turismo is based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough, a gamer turned professional racecar driver. It’s the type of remarkable real-life tale that’s ripe for a Hollywood treatment. Although not as groundbreaking as its source material, Gran Turismo merges compelling human drama with thrilling race sequences to deliver an uplifting sports drama.
Despite the unconventional journey of its real-life protagonist, the film unfolds as a largely conventional sports drama. All the standard tropes are present (the jerky rich rival, the grumpy older mentor with a soft interior, the underdog everyone counts out, the pep talks, the last-second photo finishes). It’s all stuff you’ve likely seen before—and there’s nothing wrong with that. The sports movie formula is a much-used template because it works. We know the underdogs will miraculously win the state championship in the end, but that doesn’t make the journey less satisfying.
Thus, while Gran Turismo may not break new ground, its narrative unfolds in a competent and compelling manner, achieving a satisfying blend of human drama, thrilling race sequences, and uplifting messages. The director, Neill Blomkamp, started his career with a bang but quickly fizzled out. I’m not sure if Gran Turismo will get him back onto the podium, but it certainly showcases his quality filmmaking ability.
Video game aesthetics and mechanics are incorporated into the film in interesting ways, and the drama maintains momentum throughout its lengthy runtime. More importantly, as someone who finds actual car racing the peak of human boredom, Gran Turismo’s racing scenes are thrilling. The exciting sequences utilize impressive camera work and sound design to immerse the audience into the action. In fact, people in my theater were cheering and applauding throughout the racing scenes as if transported into the stands of an actual race.
Archie Madekwe is endearing in the lead role as Jann, but the standout performance is David Harbour as his jaded and grumpy mentor. The relationship dynamic between the two characters is the heart of the film, and the growing trust that develops between them feels believable and earned.
Gran Turismo is not revolutionary, but it is a fun, well-executed, highly entertaining film that delivers the classic tropes people expect from a sports movie. It may not be among the best movies of the year, but it is one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen so far. It will send audiences out of the theater feeling good (and perhaps also driving speedily to the store to purchase the latest video game console).
Engage The Film
Conviction and Commitment
Jann’s unwavering dream of becoming a racer is continually questioned by those around him, including his own family. These characters stress the value of conviction, but seemingly lose faith when obstacles or challenges arise.
Even within the pursuit of his dream, Jann is pushed to commit. On the racetrack, his mentor repeatedly hammers home that there’s no room for hesitation if he wants to succeed. If he is going to pass a car ahead of him, he must fully commit to the action or not bother getting behind the wheel at all.
Religion is not addressed in the movie, but there are obvious parallels in this theme that Christians can affirm. The Bible urges believers to be hot or cold rather than lukewarm (Revelation 3:15). When it comes to Christian conviction, Jesus rebuked those who were halfheartedly going through the motions or who gave up at the first sign of resistance.
Blurring of Fiction and Reality
The central premise of Gran Turismo is that the virtual racing simulator had achieved such immersive realism that the line between fiction and reality became blurry. In the early stages of the film, Jann is criticized as an imposter, a racer who has never sat behind the wheel of a real racecar. “This is not a game. This is reality,” his cynical instructor says. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that not only has Jann’s experience in the virtual simulator prepared him for the “real thing,” but his many hours in the game have given him more familiarity with the car and the racetracks than his rivals have.
In one sense, the frequent emphasis on the realism of the video game acts as a clear commercial for the product (this movie was produced by a video game company, after all). But the film touches on an important issue. As technology—in gaming and elsewhere—continues to advance, the divide between the virtual world and the real world is shrinking. What are the implications of a society in which our experiences in a digital world become indistinguishable from our experiences in the physical world? Gran Turismo presents an overwhelmingly positive perspective on this reality, although it is not hard to see the negative implications of this shrinking divide as well.