The Gran Turismo film hits theaters on August 9 in the U.K. and August 25 in the U.S., but initial reviews aren’t looking too good. However, it’s receiving especially harsh critique for the “based on a true story” narrative retelling a harrowing real-life deadly accident to provide character motivation.
As spotted by VGC, the Neill Blomkamp-directed film replicates a scene in which protagonist Jann Mardenborough (played by Midsommar’s Archie Madekwe) crashed his Nissan GTR Nismo during a race at the Nürburgring in Germany in 2015. The tragic event ended with one spectator dead and several others injured as Mardenborough’s car came flipping through the trackside, taking down the barricade and fence protecting the viewing area. It was a horrific event, but that didn’t stop Sony Pictures Releasing from using the incident as a turning point for the professional racer to get his shit together, ultimately finishing third in a 24 Hours of LeMans competition—except these were separate events.
Mardenborough did compete in the 90th 24 Hours of LeMans in France, but that race was in 2013, a whole two years before the tragedy at Nürburgring ever occurred, meaning Sony altered the timeline of real-life events simply to fit this fictional narrative. While this is normal for biopics and other films based on actual events, critics slammed Sony for reframing the circumstances involving someone’s death.
In Polygon’s review critic Oli Welsh noted that while everything is accurate in terms of historicism, the timeline is completely wrong and, thus, tasteless.
“There is one particularly troubling aspect to the way American Sniper co-writer Jason Hall and Creed III co-writer Zach Baylin frame the accident, a freak occurrence at the Nürburgring circuit that killed a spectator,” Welsh wrote. “While the crash did happen pretty much as depicted, Hall and Baylin’s screenplay time-shifts it in order to stage it as a defining, motivating setback on Mardenborough’s hero’s journey to his Le Mans podium. The actual accident happened years later—arguably a tasteless reframing of a fatal event.”
While the London Evening Standard’s Charlotte O’Sullivan said Sony should be ashamed of itself for turning the late spectator’s death into “a moveable feast,” crass entertainment.
“In the movie, Mardenborough is involved in a crash at Nurburgring, which has fatal consequences for a spectator,” O’Sullivan wrote. “Due to race at Le Mans 24 Hours, Jann is naturally guilt-ridden, which, in turn, leads to rousing pep talks from Jack and Danny. The ending couldn’t be more upbeat (the big tragedy is followed by the hugest of wins). In reality, though, the lead-up to Mardenborough’s Le Mans triumph was smooth and the horrific accident came two years later. Suggesting the incident helped propel Jann to greatness is not only false, it’s reprehensible.”
Kotaku reached out to Sony for comment.
For his part, the real-life Mardenborough told the Sunday Times earlier this month that leaving out the harrowing incident would’ve been “a disservice to the audience.”