Gran Turismo

With the video game business pulling in more money than the music business and much of the film business, is no longer a surprise to see a video game brand in the opening credits. Here, PlayStation plays a prominent role. And that is apt, as this film is a true story based on the titular video racing game. The underdog plot would be enjoyable, even if it were not true, making the film even more compelling.

Our hero is Welsh teenager Jann Mardenborough, played wonderfully by Archie Madekwe as the video game enthusiast who comes to learn that Toyota is setting up a competition for video game players to become actual race car drivers. Jann’s football/soccer father is understandably disdainful of his son’s ambitions instead steers Jann to a job at his own company. Nonetheless Jann bolts on his first day of the job to join the competition, which is being held online with players from around the world. Jann slides into his seat at the video game arcade with seconds to spare and (you know where this is going) he qualifies.

At the training course with other video game contestants from around the world, each get their shot by sliding behind the wheel of an actual car. It turns out that the hours in front of the video screen present an experience not to dissimilar from the real thing.

The surly coach (played well by David Harbour) designated to train the ragamuffin yet champion video gamers inevitably sees something in Jann and stands up for him when the corporate powers that be prefer a more photogenic face for the team. The corporate powers that be are represented mostly by the pretty face of Orlando Bloom, in the uphill battle of convincing Toyota of the logic of using video game players to represent the brand on the race track.

The racing scenes are energetic, and the palpable thrill of our lead character is infectious. Much credit to director Neil Blokamp, who exploded off the screen with 2009’s “District 9.”

Even if you aren’t much of a fan of video games or auto racing, “Gran Turismo” is a thrilling ride.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.