Gran Turismo Movie Review: Don't Trust the Trailer

Arguably the most popular racing game franchise in the world is making its debut on the big screen: The Gran Turismo movie hits theaters on August 10th - but GT veteran Alexandre Tonini has already seen the feature film. If you have been skeptical about it just from watching the trailer, you might be pleasantly surprised - buckle in for Alex' honest review.

The Gran Turismo movie is not out in theaters yet at the time of writing this review, but I have been fortunate enough to attend the premiere in Paris and watch it in its final cut, in a Dolby Cinema theater no less. The version I got to wach featured the original English voices with added subtitles, which 2014 GT Academy winner Gaëtan Paletou helped with for the French translations and dub.

For full transparency, I was hired to set up and run a couple of sim rigs as part of an animation before the projection. I have not been asked to write anything specific, nor restricted from mentioning anything either. The following review contains my unfiltered views and opinions about the movie. It will remain spoiler free for the most part, but I will address a specific point that might have been a genuine concern for people who watched the trailer – it definitely was for me – before the conclusion of this review, so do not click on the spoiler alert of you want to skip it.

Getting the Weird Details Out of the Way

I feel confident in assuming that everyone with a bit of racing or simracing knowledge were expecting the movie to be ridiculous after seeing the trailer, so I am going to address those concerns right away: Yes, there are some scenes and details that are either outright wrong or overdone for the sake of looking “impressive”, inaccuracies that will probably make your body hair stand up, and a few occasional clichés. However, the trailer is mostly a compilation of nearly all the bad things in the movie in retrospect, cut in a way that makes them look even worse.

Yes, the movie features close ups of angry shifting movements and clutch kicking when the cars driven are supposed to only have two pedals, weird looking crashes and classic overdone tropes. And surely, I could have lived without those things, I do not think the movie even needed most of them to be understandable or thrilling for anyone. If you are too critical about those details and cannot ignore them, you probably will not enjoy the movie. But honestly, it would be a shame.

Putting those details aside and focusing on the general storytelling, it actually becomes an enjoyable experience. Despite the movie being about two hours in length, it does not feel long. The pacing is well done overall, the scenes do not drag on for too long but do not feature the constant angle changes that seem to be a trend in some modern movies.

Aside from a few things that have been missed (we do not see any practice or qualification sessions) or glanced over too quickly, Gran Turismo is dense in a good way, giving just the right amount of time to most story elements. You see enough to understand what’s going on, but nothing drags so much that it becomes boring or too difficult to digest for non specialists. There’s also a pretty good rhythm with how relaxed, deep and more intense moments alternate.

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The Gran Turismo movie follows the story of Jann Mardenborough - albeit with a few slight increases in dramatization. Image credit: Sony Pictures

The Good​

The premise of the Gran Turismo movie is inspired by Jann Mardenborough’s real story. It may not be entirely true to real life, some parts having obviously been romanced or exaggerated, and some elements might have been taken from other graduates' experiences and a majority of characters aside Jann are fictional, but it is effective at telling the story of GT Academy overall while providing good entertainment value.

It is not aiming to be a documentary – which already exists anyway – but presents a more accessible way for people to discover and understand how GT Academy impacted the worlds of sim racing and motorsport, as well as the challenges it faced. People who did not know anything about it will be impressed, and those who are already involved in these areas will be touched. Jann himself was consulted and gave his seal of approval, even acting as a stunt double for his own character as well.

Sure, the Gran Turismo movie is an enormous marketing campaign to try and sell the game, and it is not trying to hide it, but in contrast to some of the iffy details, some other things are surprisingly accurate. I was personally taken aback by how brutally honest it can sometimes be, especially regarding some behind the scenes politics that only those close to people involved in GT Academy would have known until now. The Gran Turismo movie even allows itself some easter eggs, and even a few memes and funny nods that should make the racing community smile.

It is also a great visual and auditory experience, especially if you have the opportunity to sit in a premium theater. The racing scenes are generally pleasant to watch and feature some interesting camera angles, the CGI quality is very good, only betrayed by unrealistic car behavior in some shots, and the sound design is great – especially when speakers under your seat end up acting as butt kickers. Additionally, the integration of sounds effect and HUD elements from the game are a nice touch.

The Bad​

There are still a few bits bugging me about the movie, however. The logo’s font comes to mind first: Why it is different from the actual game’s logo remains a mystery to me, and annoys me probably much more than it should. But when you know the game, it gives a bad first impression, almost as if it was a counterfeit product. The integrated HUD elements occasionally not being accurate to what they would look like in the game evokes a feeling of there being no connection between Polyphony Digital and the movie team as well.

The cars' behavior in CGI scenes being obviously unrealistic sometimes is also doing a disservice to the film in my opinion, especially in regards to some of the crashes. That last point feels like a particularly bad choice because it dilutes the credibility of one of the most impactful moments of the story, and I am afraid the general public might think an event that is real was exaggerated for the sake of entertainment.

There are also some things that have been altered that sometimes create incoherences, like how some racing regulations are explained, or the fact that Jann drives the same car all the time after graduating, despite initially having to prove himself in a different racing series. While some of these things were probably forced upon the director due to materialistic limitations, other things are purely a choice in writing and could have been avoided.

Jann Mardenborough’s horrific crash at Flugplatz on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife, as teased in the trailer, is featured in the movie. Like many people I have talked to beforehand, I was afraid they would just use this as a sensational scene and treat it as the spectacular thing to show. It turns out not only did they not hide the fact a spectator died in that accident, but they also made it a major pivot point of the film, as requested by Jann himself. That episode was treated in a sensible way, and it ends up being one of the best parts. As someone who had a pretty brutal car crash in real life, I felt some familiar emotions in that moment, and I’m glad the movie succeeds in delivering some important messages through that.

Also, if you were afraid the love story would be invasive or out of place, there is no need to worry as it takes up very little space and basically amounts to "Jann has a girlfriend, you've seen her, let's go back to racing".

The Conclusion

If you are knowledgeable about racing, sim racing or GT Academy’s history, your enjoyment of the Gran Turismo movie will depend massively on your state of mind when you go watch it. The best way to experience it is to detach yourself from your own deep technical knowledge, and just let yourself be carried by the storytelling. If you can bear with the Fast & Furious shenanigans without crying out loud, you will definitely stand the few inaccurate moment of Gran Turismo. Now if you are looking for something that is a super realistic depiction of on-track battles and driving skills, you will be disappointed. But that is also not what the Gran Turismo movie is trying to be.

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While the Gran Turismo movie is not an ultra-realistic depiction of racing, it does capture the atmosphere quite well. Image credit: Sony Pictures

Gran Turismo, promotional ambitions set aside, is out to send a message to people, break clichés and show that talents should be trusted, regardless of their background. It provides a great range of emotions that will feel familiar to anyone who has been involved in a way with racing, be it virtual or real, and more. And as a movie, it’s most likely going provide you with a good time.

Ultimately, this movie is good at making people curious and eager to discover and try out sim racing in general, and I am glad it has been produced. The reception from all the guests at the premiere was great, and some even started asking me how much the sim rigs that were present would cost. If you are a sim racer yourself, give it a chance and bring along some family or friends from outside the sim racing community to share your experience with them. They might soon be asking to try out your rig at home.

Your Thoughts​

Are you looking forward to watching the Gran Turismo movie? Do you find Alex' review helpful? Let us know below - and please comment once you have seen the movie, too!
About author
Global motorsports enjoyer, long time simracer, Gran Turismo veteran, I've been driving alongside top drivers since the dawn of online pro leagues on Gran Turismo, and qualified for the only cancelled FIA GTC World Tour. I've left aside competitive driving in 2020 to dedicate myself to IGTL, a simracing organisation hosting high quality events for pro racers and customers, to create with friends the kind of events we wished we could have had. We strive to provide the best events for drivers and the best content for viewers, and want to help the simracing scene grow and shine further in the global esports scene.


I was really excited for this movie when i saw the first trailer some months ago, but i did notice some of the exageration present in the movie back then... now, after the second trailer and your review i'm almost sure that is not a movie for me, at least i don't think that besides the GT Academy and being a real story, i don't get the "Gran Turismo" vibes from it, as you said, i think that Polyphony wasn't really involved nor the movie team was really too much into Gran Turismo..
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The racing scenes are generally pleasant to watch and feature some interesting camera angles, the CGI quality is very good...and the sound design is great – especially when speakers under your seat end up acting as butt kickers.

Sold! :laugh:

Very good write up. Thank you!
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I don't think I will ever watch this. I liked the Fast 2 Furious Trilogy tho. Well. I've seen them all, but ehh I was drunk or tipsy.
Absolutely nothing excites me about this movie. I'll catch it when it lands on terrestrial TV.
Haven't felt that way about movie in a long time... Maybe since Terminator 2! That was a joke. I watched the Super Mario movie which was adorable, only 30 years too late lol. I got the freaking 1993 John Leguizamo version lol It was bizarre.
Haven't felt that way about movie in a long time... Maybe since Terminator 2! That was a joke. I watched the Super Mario movie which was adorable, only 30 years too late lol. I got the freaking 1993 John Leguizamo version lol It was bizarre.
That guy. :roflmao:
When asked again by TMZ if he would be watching the movie, Leguizamo answered: “Hell no!” Leguizamo first spoke out against the new animated movie on Twitter last October, writing that a Mario movie reboot was a good idea but it was “too bad they went all white! No Latinx in the leads!

BTW new Mario in 4dx theater was awesome, my back was hurting after all that chair kicking.:D
That guy. :roflmao:

BTW new Mario in 4dx theater was awesome, my back was hurting after all that chair kicking.:D
That came out wrong, lol I like John, especially in John Wick. I just couldn't think who else was in that abomination. Bowser was my favorite in the new movie.
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Could be accused of the bad taste by nose up critics (which I don't care), but I've really enjoyed "Need For Speed". Too bad sequel did not come to fruition.
Funny quote from The Guardian review

Commerce contaminates the whole endeavour. When Jann gives Jack a heartfelt gift, which company logo is clearly visible on it? (Clue: it isn’t Apple.) And as the teenager progresses through the ranks and the race-tracks, we keep hearing how the original PlayStation product is a driving simulator rather than a mere game. It is a distinction that applies to the movie: this is a simulation of cinema, with scarcely a human fingerprint anywhere on its chassis.

"Simulation of cinema" :roflmao:
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