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Gran Turismo film review – a marketing exercise filled with contrived drama

At the start of Gran Turismo, our hero, a young man named Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), receives a package. Clearly, whatever is in the box is of Holy importance, as he actually kneels down to open it. Has he ordered a saintly relic, something to aid his evening prayers? A splinter of the True Cross, perhaps? He opens the lid, and we see the object of his worship: a steering wheel. Not an actual steering wheel, mind, but the plastic variety that you plug into a console to guide a racing game. For Jann, of course, drawing that distinction – between the virtual and the real – would be blasphemy.

As it surely would for Kazunori Yamauchi, designer of the Gran Turismo games on which this strange movie spins. At a party one night, Jann sits gloomily in the corner on his phone, watching videos of Gran Turismo 7. A young woman, Audrey (Maeve Courtier-Lilley), comes over and takes an interest, asking him about the game, to which he replies, “Technically it’s not a game, it’s a racing simulator.”

This is one of many early indications that the film isn’t firing right. First, in real life, it’s not my experience of parties that sitting in the corner on one’s phone is an effective tactic for winning friends. Second, if someone did bother to speak to me – about video games, no less – correcting them on the finer points of simulation versus arcade play would almost certainly not result in their asking me to “DM them sometime,” as Audrey does. And third, I’m sorry Jann, but whatever your respect for Yamauchi’s work, Gran Turismo is a game. Except now, I suppose, thanks to the director Neill Blomkamp and the screenwriters Jason Hall and Zach Baylin, it’s a movie. Well, technically it’s not a movie, it’s a movie simulator.

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