When PlayStation Productions launched, we’d bet money that Gran Turismo wasn’t on your TV/movie bingo card. Uncharted? Of course. Twisted Metal? Surprising but makes sense. A movie about a famed racing simulator? That one, admittedly we here at Push Square weren’t so sure on. And that surprise and scepticism remained with us even as the PlayStation Productions logo played up on the big screen. Fittingly as a story about trying to prove others wrong, that’s exactly what Gran Turismo does, delivering not only a solid racing movie, but arguably, a reason for Sony to explore the unexpected.
Gran Turismo follows the real tale of Jann Mardenborough, a Gran Turismo racing sim pro who was offered the opportunity to race for GT Academy. After watching the trailer way too many times at the cinema - this reviewer goes about once a week - the “based on a true story” tag induced a chuckle each time. But lo and behold you can find our first coverage of the event on the site, and you’ll undoubtedly leave the cinema quickly Googling to see if those things actually happened.
That’s because Gran Turismo is a deceptively large scale story. What is prefaced as a training movie steadily works its way beyond the Academy, and each step it took further away from the movie we expected, the more impressive it became. That’s largely due to the great big beating heart at the centre of this story. Jann is facing an uphill battle as doubts are thrown his way from his competition, his trainer, and even his own family. And the movie doesn’t shy away from the darker points in Jann’s struggle either, which go a long way to attain Gran Turismo’s emotional heft.
Much of that heft comes from the movie's stellar cast. Archie Madekwe as Jann and David Harbour as his trainer David Salter make for a formidable duo. Their relationship progresses in a very natural way that leaves quite intensely caring for both of these characters. It’s backed up by brilliant turns from Orlando Bloom as the morally conflicting Nissan marketing rep, and Djimon Hounsou as Jann’s father - who just demands your attention every time he’s on screen. It’s a great cast that are clearly having a lot of fun, but also taking it seriously which is somewhat refreshing for a video game adaptation like this.
The emotional beats between its characters are all tied together by some thrilling race sequences. A concoction of stellar sound design, a blood-pumping score, and some sweeping cinematography meant that we were regularly holding our breath. And not just from the “will they win?” aspect. Gran Turismo does a great job of showcasing the dangers of racing, which left us on the edge of our seat every time Jann made a risky pass. There were some truly jaw-dropping moments, and scenes that left our cinema screen in complete silence.
Let’s take a beat though to talk about the gaming aspect of it all. As a PlayStation production focused around one of its hallmark franchises, the first third of the movie can come across more like a Gran Turismo ad than anything else. It’s very boastful as characters constantly speak on how incredible the franchise is, and the movie even opens to both behind-the-scenes footage for the games, and our main character opening up a fresh new GT wheel. It’s also a little weird to see a movie so littered with PlayStation logos. We get it, racing is an ad-friendly sport, but it often felt like barely a second could go by without a logo, symbol, DualSense or PS5 dashboard sound showing up. At least, Sony resisted the urge to feature a lingering shot of a sparkly PS5.
Sticking with the topic of gaming for a moment longer, we’ve become accustomed to cringe references, or generalisations on those that love to game for quite some time. Admittedly, it’s not as bad as we expected here, but there is still a smidgen of that outdated perspective. Things like a “Cops Avoided” achievement during an early chase sequence that would be better placed in a Grand Theft Auto movie, or the GT pros being generalised as scrawny gamers that have never been outside. It fits for the movie, but we couldn’t help but roll our eyes at slaggings that are on par with calling someone with glasses Harry Potter.
Aside from its Sony alignment and over-generalisations, Gran Turismo is a wickedly good time. It’s a fantastic story with a sprinkling of cliché, filled to the brim with nail-biting race sequences and a ton of heart. While it might not have been on anyone’s PlayStation Productions bingo card, it’s nice to see that Sony has taken a gamble with an unconventional adaptation that proved us wrong in the best kind of way.
Will you be heading out to cinemas this weekend to check out Gran Turismo? Let us know down in the comments.