Elijah Wood plays Tom Selznick, a concert pianist whose career imploded after a destructive case of stage fright. But now he’s back, trying to conquer his fears by playing one more show. And as soon as he sits down at the piano he learns that a sniper is aiming at his head, and will kill him if he misses a single, solitary note.
The plot of Eugenio Mira’s Grand Piano is so high-concept it’s absurd, and yet miraculously, it plays. The cinematography and editing is virtuosic, echoing the legacy of Brian De Palma’s classics, and the intensity and cleverness of the story keeps the suspense alive throughout the whole movie. The script comes courtesy of Damien Chazelle, who would go on to write and direct the Oscar-winning musician drama Whiplash, which was also about the extreme dangers artists face in the pursuit of perfection. But whereas Whiplash was emotionally apocalyptic, Grand Piano is a playful thrill, and proves that any concept — no matter how seemingly ridiculous — can be engrossing if talented filmmakers hit all the right beats.