Grand Piano

Grand Piano

This thriller set in a concert hall is a stunt, but a damn good one. Maybe risk hasn't died yet in filmmaking. Elijah Wood (yup, Frodo) gives one of his best performances as Tom Selznick, a pianist paralyzed from stage fright after playing an impossible piece ("La Cinquette") five years ago that wrecked his confidence. Tom is back onstage in Chicago, with his movie-star wife (Kerry Bishé) in the house, to sit at his piano and take on "La Cinquette" with a full orchestra. The Phantom of the Opera had it easy. A psycho (John Cusack) in Tom's earpiece is threatening to shoot him dead if he misses a note. And, wait, the piano itself may be haunted.

Too much? And then some. But director Eugenio Mira, working in demonic concert with cinematographer Unax Mendía and editor José Luis Romeu, keeps you riveted even as the script, by Damien Chazelle, defies credulity at every turn. The ending is a TVish cop-out. But until then, watching Wood sweat emerges as a pulse-pounding experiment in terror.

From The Archives Issue 1204: March 13, 2014