By: Russ Matthews
Jann Mardenborough may not be recognisable to many outside the race car and gaming communities, but this young gamer was a history-maker.
He is known for winning a Gran Turismo game competition and eventually having a prolific worldwide racing career. District 9 director Neill Blomkamp does all he can to capture this young driver’s unbelievable and unprecedented story by speeding into cinemas.
Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) had been an avid gamer and champion at the simulation game, Gran Turismo. Growing up in Cardiff, Wales, he dreamt of life outside this community. Specifically, to get out from under the pressure of his father, Steve (Djimon Hounsou), who had been a professional footballer and wanted more for his son. Until one day, Jann was invited to be part of a video game competition sponsored by PlayStation and Nissan. The prize is for the winner to go to the GT Academy to become a real professional race car driver. Despite winning the competition, the teenager would need to prove that he had what it takes to fulfil this dream of racing by making it through the training of driving legend, Jack Salter (David Harbour).
All of this sounds so far-fetched, it made the viewing process challenging to believe. That was until the final credits went on to show that the majority of events and the people on screen were real. This was a fascinating study of unconventional means of entry into a highly competitive sport, from the gaming chair to the car seat. Each obstacle that Jann Mardenborough faced brought a different challenge to him in achieving his dreams. Yet, through the highs and lows of his story, the young driver proves why this racing tale was considered for the big screen. Archie Madekwe does enough to get things across the line. At the same time, David Harbour is the driving force behind this driver’s journey. They provide the human side that must compete with the excitement of the roaring engines and seeing how things are done on the race car circuit.
What is surprising about a film that relies on people’s hearts racing as they watch the drama speed past them is how this story becomes quite prosaic. The screenplay and action attempt to keep the pedal to the floor, but this true-to-life tale fails to keep the motor running. The blame could be the need to remain faithful to the original storyline or heavy reliance on the cars to keep the audience’s attention. Regardless of this apparent problem, the film’s overall feel has all the right components, but can’t get the engine running hot enough. Gran Turismo has the potential of a strong contender, but only the gaming fans will appreciate it enough to get this film out from the middle of the pack to take the checkered flag in cinemas.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” – Proverbs 27:17 (Yup, we did that!)
One element that stands out from Gran Turismo is the mentoring relationship between the two lead characters. As the old, jaded racer brings Jann Mardenborough under his wing and directs his path for his development and making it in the brutal world of auto racing, a special bond is developed. Even though their relationship is not perfect, it does lead to some of the most endearing elements of the film.
“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” – 2 Timothy 2:2
Mentorship and training are seen throughout the Bible. Jesus had his disciples, but a fascinating study can be found in the coaching relationship between Paul and Timothy. The apostle wrote some of the most personal letters to his trainee. These men set a precedence for the value of an older individual investing in the life of someone younger. Not unlike the relationship between these men in the film, the allegiance between Paul and Timothy benefits trainees today. It does lead to the very thing that genuinely helps mankind.
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
All images: Movie publicity
About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.