2013 / Director. Eugenio Mira.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Elijah Wood's previous feature film was MANIAC in which the story was told from his point of view and rarely saw his face. He has followed that up with GRAND PIANO, a Hitchcockian style thriller which puts his face squarely in the centre of the frame for almost the entire duration. It's an interesting contrast and an equally challenging performance. Wood plays a classical pianist who has broken a five year absence to perform a one-off concert in memory of his lost mentor. A few moments into his first piece he finds a threatening message written on his sheet-music and learns that a sniper has a him in his firing line. With his girlfriend also threatened Woods character must play the entirety of his performance without a single wrong note. As the story unfolds with various twists and turns the murderous plot soon unravels and the tension mounts. I knew of the film before watching it but I had prepared myself for a thriller with a European flavour. I was expecting something in the vein of Polanski or Argento but following a promising first act the film becomes fairly standard. The frustrating thing is that there is so much to praise about the film. Elijah Wood's performance is excellent and his seemingly capable fingers flurry about the keys naturally, while he manages to deliver dialogue and exude fear. The cinematography is also excellent with sweeping wide shots and intimate close ups. The storyboarding of the film is all class and director Eugenio Mira has given GRAND PIANO an exquisite look. The textures and aesthetic are wonderful and the score is hypnotic. I assume the pieces to be original compositions (don't hold me to that). Where the movie flounders is in its inability to maintain a constant level of menace. There are gripping moments but not enough to sustain the plot consistently. John Cusack is also a frustrating factor. Cast as the villainous voice talking to Elijah Wood though an ear piece, he lacks charisma and mystique. In fact he really does phone this performance in. His familiar American accent also takes away so much of the European flavour that the film could have relished. With a short running time 80 minutes the film should have been a taut and edgy thriller but it played into too many conventions and feels soft around the edges. It's a shame. I enjoyed the first act but felt cheated during the final two.