the true story of a gamer turned racing driver

Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) is a true racing driver who started his PlayStation career playing Gran Turismo.

Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) is a true racing driver who started his PlayStation career playing Gran Turismo. Picture: Sony Pictures


In theaters since Wednesday August 9, the film Gran Turismo retraces the story of Jann Mardenborough, a Briton who went from a teenager’s room to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

12.08.2023, 11:5412.08.2023, 12:31

Sainath Bovay

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em>Gran Turismo takes its subject from the eponymous game, car racing simulator developed by the Japanese studio Polyphony Digital and its director Kazunori Yamauchi who wanted to reproduce the most realistic racing game ever.

To date, the franchise is the most lucrative of the Sony console with 90 million units sold since 1997. The game, available on PlayStation 5, now has a virtual reality version for an experience as incredible as immersive.

Second Playstation Production film after Uncharted released last year, the film tells the improbable story of Jann Mardenborough. This Briton, from the working class of Cardiff, was propelled from the online competitions of Gran Turismoin which he excelled, to motorsports through of a competition launched by Nissan: the GT Academy.

The objective of this Bootcamp imagined by Darren Cox, the former general manager of Nissan Europe, was to make a player the ambassador of the Japanese manufacturer to young people. making him a true champion (and above all, to sell more cars to an unaffected demographic). A competition which in reality has existed since 2008 and of which Jann Mardenborough will be a finalist in 2011.

The film therefore tells the unexpected rise of this young geek who, after having spent thousands of hours in simulation, will have to prove himself on the asphalt of the circuits of the most prestigious competitions, in particular the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The teaser:

Video: watson

From reality to fiction

The plot of the film revolves around the atypical trajectory of this driver who is by far not the best behind the wheel, but who will end up winning some great victories. Indeed, Jann Mardenborough won his first victory the year following his selection in 2011 for the GT Academy in the Touring Car Championship. Then he landed an unexpected podium in the world’s most famous race at Le Mans in 2013.

Welcome to the Nissan GT Academy noobs!  Here is real life!

Welcome to the Nissan GT Academy noobs! Here is real life!Picture: Sony Pictures

Where the shoe pinches is that the film reappropriates real facts to put them at the service of fiction. This distortion of reality in the name of spectacle can be questionable. In particular during a spectacular sequence, on March 28, 2015, when his car, a Nissan GT-R, took off from the Nürburgring track in Austria.

This violent departure from the track at the level of a bump called “Flugplatz” caused the vehicle to fly for several meters, which crashed beyond the safety barriers. This accident where Jann came out slightly touched left one dead and several injured among the spectators. Devastated by the death that occurred during the accident, Jann Mardenborough managed to overcome this ordeal and resumed driving three months later.

except in the movie Gran Turismo, the event occurs shortly before Mardenborough’s race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where he finished third. The script uses his guilt and trauma as a difficulty to overcome in order to achieve the feat. Jann Mardenborough did participate in the 90th 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing 3rd in his class, but this race took place in 2013, two years before the Nürburgring tragedy. Thus, the script altered the timeline of actual events to serve as a dramatic catalyst.

Ready Player One

Revealed by the brilliant first attempt that was District 9 in 2009, South African director Neill Blomkamp was the man behind the controls of Gran Turismo. The film certainly does not have the splendor of other works dealing with motor racing such as the excellent Ford VS Ferrari by James Mangold or Rush by Ron Howard. Nevertheless, il Features spectacular racing sequencesespecially during his last 30 minutes on the go during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the camera is not as close as possible to the racing cars, the film suffers from a structure that could not be more conventional, with characters that do not exist only through the clichés of sports films: from the young racer in search of glory to the disillusioned old mentor in the process of redemption, passing by the arrogant and detestable rival.

Never a good champion without a good mentor.  Played by David Harbor, he is the most likable element of the film.

Never a good champion without a good mentor. Played by David Harbor, he is the most likable element of the film.Picture: Sony Pictures

If this feature film has everything of a classic story in the sports world and abuses the clichés of the genre, the production does not omit its source material. It subtly appropriates certain effects from the racing video game, in particular interface elements which indicate on the screen the courses to be followed, the names of the players in competition or their position, in the manner of augmented reality. Visual elements which have moreover been adopted in a concrete way in sports competitions and which are skilfully used in the film in order to recall the video game origins of the work.

We can criticize the film for dragging its “product placement” side and its lack of honesty on the fact of using the death of a spectator as a dramatic spring. Despite the emotions provided and the adrenaline of the races, when the cinema becomes advertising, it is probably on the wrong track…

Nevertheless, the film highlights atypical stories – that of a gamer turned athlete, and that of the risky bet that was the Nissan GT Academy – while paying homage to the brilliant game of Kazunori Yamauchi. In the end, Gran Turismo remains a nice film, although forgettablewhich will often leave spectators allergic to video games in annoyance.

Gran Turismo by Neill Blomkamp, ​​starring Archie Madekwe, David Harbor and Orlando Bloom, has been in French-speaking cinemas since August 9.

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