A Review of the ‘The Grand Tour: A Scandi Flick’

A review of this film on ‘rally culture’ set against the backdrop of an Arctic road trip.


Monicore / Pexels

Here is a seaside image of Lofoten Norway, the archipelago where the Grand Tour began their journey heading for Finland.

Who would have thought that The Arctic Circle, Europe’s last great wilderness, would be conquered by three Brits in rally cars? Set to a road trip, The Grand Tour returns in their special The Grand Tour: A Scandi Flick, and they are back better than ever. They experience danger and surprises as they venture from Norway in the Lofoten Islands to Ivalo airport in Finland near the Russian border. Given the harsh conditions of Scandinavia, they risk crashes and accidents. With only six days to travel 600 miles, the trio, James May, Jeremey Clarkson, and Richard Hammond, embark on this journey, regardless of the risk. Presenting comedy at its highest quality from the moment the special begins, while also paying homage to rallies in the early 2000s, this film is a love letter to rallying.

The Grand Tour is an Amazon Prime Original Series hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond. The history between these three runs far greater than The Grand Tour; in 2002, they created car reviews, entertaining viewers with their exceptional sense of humor. In 2003, the trio went on to host Top Gear, an automobile show on the BBC. A decade later, in 2016, after a fallout between Jeremy Clarkson and a producer of Top Gear, The Grand Tour was eventually created. 

They continued the original format of car reviews and guest stars for the first three seasons but then announced they would end the show. Later, The Grand Tour announced that they would continue the show in a specials-like format, with the yearly or bi-yearly movie-length episode ‘A Scandi Flick’ as the first episode of season 5. Their dynamic rapport was possibly the most endearing aspect of the trio’s performance.The juxtaposition between adult conversation regarding the systems in the car, the modification of their vehicles, and the history behind motorsport is contrasted with their childlike behavior. The pranks they pull on one another, the situations they find themselves in, and the stupid modifications they make to their cars add to the humor, because they choose to use their knowledge to entertain the audience.  

The Grand Tour has always been focused on cars, and on the culture behind motorsports. They have used the new format to show the history and love for cars in a more entertaining way than in a traditional studio audience network show. They have shown their passion for cars by going out, and driving them, putting them to the test and pushing them to their limits with different challenges and types of motor sporting events. There is always a theme or message to an episode, but in the end, they are three friends bonding over the journey they made in these cars. The show embodies the idea that it is not the destination but the journey. 

Rallying is the central theme around “A Scandi Flick” which ties together every aspect of the special. Rallying is a specific kind of motocross event typically completed on dirt roads with hills and jumps, where racers either compete against a clock or in a more traditional head-to-head competition. Rallying and rallycross can exist in any environment, from roads covered in snow, dirt, or even sand. Snow rallying was how they chose to test the cars since it is especially popular in Scandinavia. Snow rallying allows for the use of the natural Scandinavian terrain and constant winter environment, which is perfect for pushing cars to their limits. The title of the special is even named after a common rally move: ‘Scandinavian Flick.’ A ‘Scandinavian Flick’ is when a driver, typically on a snow track, purposely oversteers to slide around the outside of a turn and line up to the exit of the turn while maintaining momentum.

Several cars perform Scandinavian Flicks during a snow rally competition, with each car showing a different moment in the tight turn (Benj05, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

It is the cars that make rallying heritage so special. The cars are such a big part of the rallying community because the cars make or break the competition and are built to handle even the toughest of conditions. As Hammond said in the film, “It’s not a car that you crash or ding in the usual way. It’s a car that gets injured ‘cause there’s so much passion wrapped up in it from a lot of people.” Rallying is often hectic, so cars are built to withstand the unusual strain and endure what normal stock cars cannot. According to the FIA World Rally Championship regulations World Rally Championship, Rally 1 uses a 1.6T Engine, meaning that rally cars are characterized by their small engine capacity but high speeds, as well as their stock build. These regulations are what define rally and what makes rally unique, as not any car can be fit to be a rally car. You cannot take a standard factory-line car and make it work for rally; it has to be built for rally and be able to put up with tremendous amounts of force upon the car. To the viewers and drivers alike, these cars represent all the crashes, the suspension shocks, every hill jump, and obstacle climb. The cars represent how they are built for endurance and, by extension, the endurance of spirit. Each car means a different thing to different people, but they can all agree that rally cars represent the best possibility of what cars can be. 

The Subaru Impreza is the rally champion, with 47 world championship wins and a total of 212 versions available on the market. Subaru fans are divided on which version is the best, but Hammond believed his 2003 Subaru Impreza WRX Sti limited edition was the best Impreza to choose from. 

The Evo (short for Evolution), with 27 championship wins and ten versions released, is the other head honcho in the rally scene. Despite fewer releases than the Impreza, it has just as much of a loyal fan base. It has a community just as large as the Impreza has, and oftentimes, the Evo and Impreza are seen as rivals. James was content with his Evo XIII GSR and had full faith in the car and its rallying capabilities. 

However, for those who are not familiar with the rallying scene, Clarkson made a bold choice with his Audi. Instead of taking an Audi Quattro, an iconic rallying symbol, he instead claims  RS4 is the heir to the Quattro since it is a fast and powerful track car. However, because of the RS4’s large engine and wide body frame, it cannot be called a rally car. Despite the lack of a real Quattro, it is more than made up by Clarkson’s humor and charisma as he depends on his Audi throughout the special, which makes up for his straying from the task.

Their task is simple, to take their cars and cross Europe’s last great wilderness in six days. In those six days, they must cross more than 600 miles to the Finnish border. Most importantly, they must find out whose car is the best rally car there is. 

(Spoiler Warning Ahead) 

This being said, the movie itself was outstanding. The trio is back and re-energized after their hiatus. With the last two specials having been released during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lockdown and Carnage A Trois, being restricted in where they could go also seemingly limited the comedy. However, A Scandi Flick is a return to greatness for the Grand Tour, delivering 1 hour and 39 minutes of laughs. I also found it incredibly informative, as it taught me the real meaning of motorsport and the heritage behind the cars that I have always liked. The only pause in comedic relief was the collective concern for James May during his crash at the twenty-minute mark. Despite the crash being widely known prior to the release of the film, we were so surprised how early it was, fearing that any serious injuries might impair him or possibly remove him from the special. Thankfully, his injuries were minor, and the show went on. His journey would instead become a message of triumph for the rest of the runtime. 

The redemption and survival of James May and his Evo are at the centerpiece of the special. May crashed his Evo into a wall after taking a turn too quickly, breaking a rib and totaling the car. He completely destroyed it during the crash but made a surprising effort to resurrect the Evo and bring it to Sweden. Later, while falling through a frozen lake in Finland, he got the Evo working again. That Evo became a symbol of the power of old-school rally cars and the power of the Evo. May’s Evo survived to work for the reunion they had months later despite being bodied twice and missing part of its chassis. For a comedy-based car show, the idea of perseverance would shine through special, as it not only embodies the struggle that the Evo went through, but also the spirit of rallying itself. These cars crumple and are destroyed but they always persevere. They run even with the frame and doors fallen off because of the determination of spirit. We connect to rally racing because it reflects the human condition; life is not paved and easy but rough with many ups and downs. Much like these cars, the human spirit takes every beating and still makes it to the finish line because that’s what humanity stands for. 

From the discovery of the Dutch-Norwegian War to the ice-related pranks, and the extreme modifications to their cars like Clarkson’s fire exhaust, the bar is set high for their cars. One memorable event is in Skijoring, when skiers are pulled behind cars to race. We can see the passion return in the trio, and in my opinion, this is the best part of the special, ever since the series changed format to these full-length specials in 2019. On-par specials like Seamen and A Massive Hunt were fueled by their ambition which gets them into all sorts of trouble. This special surpasses those two in not only humor but as well as in subject. Seamen was a journey to Vietnam in boats and A Massive Hunt was a trip across Madagascar in modified cars. Both were entertaining to watch, but A Scandi Flick clearly had a lot more love behind it. In their distinct style and sense of humor, the Grand Tour showed the power and love that the motoring community has for rallying. This proves the power of rally cars and the passion which comes when you drive these cars. As well as just providing us with their antics, the visualization of them surviving the night in a Sami museum exhibit, Clarkson burning his car in order to melt the ice, and Hammond barreling down the ski slope in his shack, A Scandi Flick provides images that still remain in my memory weeks after I watched it. 

Here is the spectacularly wonderful sport of Skijoring, where racers ski at speeds up to 120 mph, competing in anything from races to time trials. (Josef “Pepe” Hammerer, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Its visual imagery of the Arctic Circle also does wonders, creating a sense of sublimity when the men are surrounded by the vastness of nature. The beautiful sights of Norway, Sweden, and Finland added to the viewing experience, by showing us the true beauty of “Europe’s Last Great Wilderness.” The B-roll footage of the black forest, contrasted with the stark white snow, provided a nice sense of calm to the visual intensity of the races. The peace of the snow falling was a breath of fresh air against the constant roaring engines of the cars. The visual imagery reinforces the idea of Europe’s Last Great Wilderness due to the vastness of nature depicted. In these moments, we see how small we are in respect to nature, as the cars are mere blips on the screen, while the forests, mountains, and frozen lakes encompass everything, with only a mere road cutting through nature. Nature is ever present in the special because of its meaning; the rally was meant to overcome nature’s obstacles. With every leg of the journey, nature became more unruly, and the closer they got to the finish, the harder it was to travel. From the moment they entered Finland, the final leg of the journey, they had experienced the power of nature at its fullest. From maneuvering between trees in the forests or having to cut across frozen lakes, mature checked the power of the rally cars. The stunning visuals gave us an understanding of what they really were up against in the Arctic.  

When the episode premiered in September 2022, it was refreshing to see the return of the Grand Tour that I’ve loved watching for the last six years. Due to the extensive history behind both rallying and the trio making the movie, so much depth, passion, and love are added to this film. Even if you don’t like cars, you still can’t help but laugh and find yourself enjoying their childlike antics and pranks. If you have Prime Video and are looking for a laugh-filled hour and forty minutes, then I would recommend “The Grand Tour: A Scandi Flick.’

As Richard Hammond said in the film, “It’s not a car that you crash or ding in the usual way. It’s a car that gets injured ‘cause there’s so much passion wrapped up in it from a lot of people.”