Recent years have seen Elijah Wood take on some genuinely daring projects that have helped set him apart from many American actors of his generation. Grand Piano marks the English-language directorial debut of Spanish filmmaker Eugenio Mira, whose last film, Agnosia, remains a criminally underseen gem that absolutely intoxicated me when I caught its premiere back in 2010.
On first glance, it would appear that Mira has played it incredibly safe with Grand Piano, a stripped down no nonsense genre thriller with a slightly hokey premise, but upon closer inspection there is infinitely more going on in the film that appears at first glance. To qualify the film to those unfamiliar, Grand Piano could be described as Phonebooth in a concert hall. Elijah Wood plays Tom Selznick, a world class concert pianist who emerges from retirement to perform one last concert, featuring a particularly challenging piece of music which he has never been able to play perfectly in his entire career. No sooner has he begun to play, Selznick discovers that he is sitting in the crosshairs of a mysterious sniper (John Cusack), who threatens to kill him and his doting wife in the audience if he plays a single note wrong or tries to get help.
Sure, it’s somewhat ridiculous, but just embrace the De Palma-esque concept and go with it. Fortunately, Wood and Mira are both 100% dedicated to making the film a rip-roaring nail-biter, with Wood tapping into long-forgotten piano skills to perform a number of lenghy, unbroken sequences of music, as Mira’s camera encircles him and swoops around the concert hall, ratcheting up the excitement in the process. Sure, narratively it all gets more than a little contrived and silly in the third act, but Grand Piano ultimately delivers through the sheer determination of its cast and crew to give the audience a damn good time. What might be most impressive, is that all the musi used in the film is 100% original, composed by Victor Reyes and Mira himself for the film.