Wednesday, February 5, 2014

[Review] Grand Piano

Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood), a renowned pianist, travels to Chicago to play his first concert in years. He's nervous about performing a difficult selection, but the conductor comforts him, "If you're playing music this dense, you're gonna hit a wrong note and they won't know. They never do."

When the show begins, Selznick turns a page of his music sheet and sees a handwritten message: "PLAY ONE WRONG NOTE AND YOU DIE." Yes, that's the simple setup for Eugenio Mira's Grand Piano, a high-concept thriller set in an orchestra hall. The minimal premise is surprisingly gripping enough to sustain a feature length narrative, thanks to the technical efficiency and the sprawling escalation of stakes.

An unknown voice communicates with Selznick through an earpiece, giving him a series of threats and commands, quickly establishing that this is the voice of a criminal mastermind armed with a sniper rifle hidden somewhere in the darkened audience, and he means serious business. This definitely makes Selznick's palms sweat and brings a whole new meaning to stage fright. Elijah Wood is stellar in conveying a major feeling of stress and helplessness.

The camera is highly active and employs a variety sweeping motions, emerging from corners and keeping a distance when needed, like a spy. Visual screams of danger and potential blood flow in through the red color motif of the sets. The operatic editing, elegant lighting, and corresponding orchestral crescendos all lend greatly to the mood, fervently constituting Grand Piano as a complete and well-functioning unit.

The finale doesn't quite live up to everything that precedes it, but the build-up is so sensational that it's almost easy to ignore that last note.


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