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I’ve never been a fan of playing racing sims, but when I first saw the trailer for Gran Turismo, I was as excited for a video game-inspired movie as I’ve ever been. Gran Turismo the film tells the story of Jann Mardenborough who goes from the arcades of Darlington, England, to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s not your typical video game movie, and that’s a good thing for both fans and the wider movie-going audience.

Gran Turismo Is a Different Kind of Video Game Movie

In Esports Illustrated’s interview with director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Chappie) he explained what drew him to the project of Gran Turismo, “If you think of this as a video game film, it is an erratically different kind of video game film. We’re not inside the narrative of the game, which is almost every single video game film I can think of.”

In an age of adaptations, the Sonics, Marios and Last of Us-type filmmaking all take familiar games and narrative stories with and find a way to tell the same story we already know on the silver screen. Instead, Gran Turismo is a film that dares to be a bit different and wants to share with us a story we don’t know about the world we live in and what is possible through video games.

Based On A True Story

Jann Mardenborough’s story is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of tale and is perfect for this type of film. It’s got all the same markings that classic based on a true story sports movies do like Remember the Titans or Miracle.

Blomkamp spoke about the key difference between Gran Tursimo and other video game movies that makes it so unique, “...this idea of it being a biography about someone who has had a very interesting life that also incorporates a real world video game in a true way that influenced his life. It just felt like a really, really compelling approach or way to go about making a video game film that I just loved.”

Jann starts his journey on film wanting nothing more than to chase his dreams of becoming a professional racing driver, but those around him see it as a waste of time and encourage him (sometimes to the point of berating) to drop the childish pastimes and do something with his life.

It’s a sentiment nearly all gamers, streamers and esports athletes can likely relate to on some level.

But thanks to the GT Academy contest Jann gets the chance to prove everyone wrong and show his family that he has the skill, dedication and even a bit of luck to do what they thought was impossible.

The movie follows his journey through the GT Academy racing against other gamers, into the semi-professional scene as he needs to place at a certain threshold to get his professional driving license, to a moment of tragedy and heartbreak and eventually, to the finale of the 24 Hour race at Le Mans.

Gran Turismo Plays It Safe

While the sport of professional racing is one of the most dangerous games being played on the track, the film does follow a predictable beat. When it comes to adapting films based on true events, there’s a balance you need to strike between what happened and how much you want to keep the audience entertained and to its credit, I hung onto every scene even if I knew what was coming around the next turn.

This is in large part to the phenomenal cast of the movie, including David Harbour (Stranger Things, Black Widow) as Jack Salter the washed up racer who could’ve made it big himself and now mentors Jann. Orlando Bloom (Lord of the Rings, Pirates of Caribbean) as Danny Moore fills the role of the marketing executive who came up with the idea for GT Academy. And Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Guardians of the Galaxy) plays Steve Mardenborough, Jann’s father and an ex-footballer.

Archie Madekwe (Beau is Afraid, See), who plays Jann Mardenborough, isn’t new to Hollywood, but this might one of his biggest roles yet, did a phenomenal job on the film. His scenes opposite Hounsou as his father were more gripping and often heart shattering than the other dramatic arcs of the film.

That shouldn’t take away from any of the drama of the track, but does highlight the one shortcoming of the film. Gran Turismo is still a movie about a video game and so the focus is, reasonably so, on the racing. But what separates the all-time great sports story adaptations from the mediocre is that they recognize what makes them special isn’t the game, but the people.

Gran Turismo has an outstanding cast and while they do have their moments to shine, I wish the film had given them more room to stretch their legs and run instead of drive.

Gran Turismo Could Be A Turning Point

When I saw Gran Turismo, it was with my wife, who didn’t have a big interest in racing, has surely never played a Sim Racer before but is still a gamer. For the next week she was talking to whoever she could about the film; friends, work colleagues and family.

In that, I think director Neill Blomkamp can take pride in knowing he accomplished what he set out to do. In our interview with the director he talked about the act of creating a movie that would resonate with fans of the game, but also appeal to a wider audience, “that was the balance the whole time was to try and make something that I thought audiences who knew nothing about the game would find the movie interesting.”

Gran Turismo should be a wake-up call to Hollywood that there’s more to find in video games than straight adaptations. There are real life stories out there of real people who are struggling to realize their dreams and through failure and triumph, they’re changing the world for themselves and gamers everywhere.

We need more stories like Gran Turismo, and there are plenty of gamers, esports athletes and their stories out there to make it happen.