Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) is the most talented pianist of his generation. Years after a catastrophic performance and racked with stage fright, he reappears in public for his long awaited return. In a packed theater, in front of the expectant audience, Tom finds a message written on the score: "Play one wrong note and you die". Without leaving the piano, he must discover the anonymous sniper's motives and look for help without anyone realizing…
A smart and unusual thriller Grand Piano is the story of once notorious pianist Tom (Elijah Wood) who choked at his last major performance when tasked with playing one of the greatest, and most challenging, pieces in fictional music history. Returning to the stage for the first time in years and intending to play the aforementioned piece of music Tom finds a message scrawled on his sheet music reading “play one wrong note and die” and an ear piece with a creepy, disembodied voice giving him commands as a killer waits in the wings.
What follows is a tense hour or so of first and second half where Wood sweats his way through some truly amazing musical performances and John Cussack, our disembodied killer, makes terrifying threats in a low, gravelly voice. I have to admit I was really hooked, Wood’s physical performance and Cussack’s vocal one perfectly complement one another and help bring the film to a rising crescendo of edge of your seat intrigue and danger.
However the end of the film sounds more like a deflating balloon than anything else, Cussack appears in the flesh and not only loses most of his dark presence but also any believable resin d’etre and you’re left just wondering what all the fuss was really about.
The supporting characters do their best to plump up the subplot but this is also a bit of a wasted effort as, following the disappointing Cussack reveal, you lose pretty much all interest.
What the film does do expertly is the music, and rightly so considering the premise; with an original score written by Victor Reyes the music is brilliantly compelling and evocative, mirroring the tone of the film and, at times, creating it. Complete with the supposedly unplayable piece the sound track for Grand Piano is just stunning, it’s a bit of a shame about the rest of the picture really.