Video games can teach players all kinds of useful skills. From good hand/eye coordination to responsiveness and alertness/focus, these games offer the player the chance to have fun while learning. Think of it like your mother hiding finely chopped vegetables in your spaghetti sauce...it tastes good to you while you have no idea it is actually good for you. While many people see gamers stereotypically as lazy, unambitious individuals with nothing going on in their lives and no skills with which to go out and get a good job, that isn't necessarily the truth. Just ask Jann Mardenborough... "Who?" You may ask.
Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe; Midsommar) is a British professional race car driver. He competes in the Japanese Super GT series, having learned the basics of race car driving from spending numerous hours playing Gran Turismo, a race simulator video game. His father, Steve, was an English Footballer who played in over 300 contests and like many parents, he thought his son's gaming was a "hobby" that would go nowhere. However, when PlayStation and Nissan created a competition - the GT Academy - where the top driver was given the opportunity to drive in real races, Jann was invited to "try out" and ultimately won the first ever GT Academy. Gran Turismo, the new film from Sony Pictures Releasing, details The GT Academy and Jann's journey to the podium at LeMans.
One of the things Gran Turismo has going for it is a solid cast. Madekwe does a good job expressing his motions - from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) who portrays Nissan Marketing executive Danny Moore (based on Darren Cox, the founder of the GT Academy) is decent. Still, it is difficult to see passed his greasy, stringy mess of hair to focus on his performance. Conversely, David Harbour (Black Widow) is fantastic as Jack Salter, a former race car driver who trains Jann. Supporting cast members Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) and Gerri Halliwell Horner (Crank: High Voltage) do a great job portraying Jann's parents.
Director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) takes the audience "along for the ride" (pun intended) as camera angles offer views from inside the vehicle, the spectator stands and the helicopter overhead giving a broad view of the racers and the track. His closeup camera work is purposeful and not overused. His ability to build excitement and tension brings the script to life and helps the audience to become invested in the story. If there is a negative in all this, the movie needed additional editing as it is unnecessarily a little bit long.
While many might think this movie is only for the gaming community, they would be incorrect. Gran Turismo isn't about the game as much as it is about human determination, perseverance, rising above failure and adversity, etc. It is a drama with some race cars thrown in the mix. If you are unsure about that assessment, you need to look no farther than Harbour's stellar performance. I'm sure if someone else had been cast as salter, the film wouldn't have the same feeling or impact.
If someone had randomly told me this story, I would have thought they made it up. It seems highly implausible that a 19 year old who had never been in a race car suddenly became the most talked about person in car racing. Honestly, the military use simulators to train soldiers but their scenarios are set up for teaching purposes, not for entertainment. However, the real life Darren Cox was a visionary who thought the game Gran Turismo could be used as a training tool and it turns out...he was right.