Every movie needs a villain too, but since real life doesn’t often provide them in convenient fashion, the writers of Gran Turismo made up Nicholas Capa, the arrogant, surly, entitled driver of indeterminate but vaguely Aryan-looking origin for whom Salter is initially working. Capa drives dirty, scowls a lot, and can’t walk past someone without shoving them, and becomes of course Jann’s chief rival on the track. As far as villains go, if Capa were any more cardboard he’d be a stand-up in a movie theater lobby.
A Real-Life Tragedy and a Cheap Ploy
The third act of Gran Turismo is both its strongest cinematically, and yet its most problematic in terms of its relationship to the truth. Jann’s first race after officially signing with Nissan is at Germany’s notorious Nürburgring Nordschleife track, known as the “Green Hell.” Jann starts the race well but at a particular corner, his car becomes airborne, sailing off the track and into a spectator area. Jann is injured yet recovers fairly quickly, but a spectator is killed.
The death leads the young racer to question whether he should even continue pursuing his dream, while other racers, the authorities, and Nissan itself all point the finger at Nissan’s GT Academy program and the whole idea of turning gamers into professional drivers. Jann is cleared of any fault in the accident, however, and despite the sentiment against the gamers, Moore and Salter decide to run a three-man team at the next major event, 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Although he is initially shaky in the race, Jann gains confidence, especially when he has to take over in the final lap for one of the other drivers on the team. This pits him against Capa, whom he weaves his way around to take the front position on the last straightaway, earning the Nissan team third place and a spot on the podium, although if you’re not watching closely, you would think that they won the thing.
More importantly, however, the victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans took place in 2013, while the accident at Nürburgring, in which a spectator was, indeed, tragically killed, happened in 2015… two full years later.
The movie uses the incident, in which a real person lost their life, as a way to create a crisis for its protagonist, a crisis from which he can draw the strength to regain his confidence and eventually return to the sport he loves in triumph. Except that none of it happened that way at all. Gran Turismo sets up a fictional scenario that exploits a real-life tragedy purely to score some big, “stand up and cheer” moments in the third act of its racing movie.