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Gran Turismo: Did That Devastatingly Tragic Accident Happen In Real Life?

Contains spoilers for "Gran Turismo"

The "Gran Turismo" video games don't have much of a story to adapt to a feature-length film, so Sony's new movie draws from real-life experiences. The story of Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) draws from the racer's actual journey from playing the "Gran Turismo" games ad nauseam to taking his skills to the racetrack. As is the case with many biopics, some details are accurate while others are fictionalized or exaggerated to create a more compelling narrative. And one moment in "Gran Turismo" may have some viewers wondering what the true case is.

During a pivotal race, Jann attempts to get ahead of the competition, but in the process, he loses control of his vehicle, which careens into a crowd of spectators. Jann's told it was a freak accident and wasn't his fault, but in the hospital, it's revealed the collision resulted in a person's death. It serves as the lowest point of the character's journey, where he questions whether he wants to continue racing. And that accident actually did happen in 2015 at the Nürburgring.

The Guardian published a statement released by Nissan following the incident: "The car is reported to have left the track at the 'Flugplatz' section and vaulted the catch fencing, landing on its roof in a spectator area. Several spectators were injured in the incident and despite immediate efforts one of them succumbed to their injuries. The others have been taken immediately to hospital for care." While the accident is based on actual events, there's more to this story than meets the eye.

Gran Turismo's timeline is off

In "Gran Turismo," Jann must confront his insecurities following the accident. Jack Salter (David Harbour) pushes him to get back behind the wheel in time for the 24 Hours of LeMans to prove he has what it takes to race alongside the best. Through sheer determination and will (along with some help from his GT Academy friends), Jann manages to place third. He overcomes adversity and kicks off an incredible racing career. The only problem is that things didn't happen in that order in real life. 

The collision took place in 2015. However, the 24 Hours of LeMans race where Jann triumphantly came in third occurred in 2013, a full two years before the accident happened. Those who made the movie altered the timeline of events so that Jann could have his lowest moment come first and then wind up taking a podium. 

It's normal for biopics to alter events like this in order to construct a more compelling story that better aligns with traditional character arcs. However, plenty of reviewers have taken the film to task for changing details about a moment that resulted in one person losing their life. 

Critics have called the change 'tasteless'

Jann in "Gran Turismo" is directly impacted by the accident during the 24 Hours of LeMans. He witnesses another racer crash, and this impacts his performance until he can shake out of it. It paints the two events as being connected when in real life, they didn't really have anything to do with one another. Creative liberties in biopics are to be expected, but this was a step too far for some critics. 

The movie's already facing an uphill battle from reviewers for a formulaic story, and some have directly addressed the change and how it comes across as insensitive seeing as how a real person actually died. Oli Welsh from Polygon wrote, "While the crash did happen pretty much as depicted, [Jason] Hall and [Zach] 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." Others have mentioned how it's crass to frame a person's death as being integral to Jann's journey when it didn't help him win LeMans at all because it hadn't occurred yet. 

In an interview with Driving.co.uk, the real Mardenborough discussed the importance of including the accident in the film, "I feel it would have been a disservice for the audience for that not to be in there." He doesn't mention altering the timeline, so audiences can decide whether it feels tasteless or not when "Gran Turismo" gets a limited release on August 11 before opening wide on August 25.