Movie review: ‘Grand Piano,’ 3 stars

Directed by: Eugenio Mira

Starring: Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Kerry Bishé

Rated: R

Playing at: Cinema Village and on VOD

“Grand Piano” effectively synthesizes a filmmaking experiment with old-school storytelling, emerging with the sort of ambitious high-concept thriller that was once the forte of Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma but has now largely fallen to the wayside.

Set in a cavernous concert hall and unfolding in real time, the film follows world-renowned pianist Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) as he makes a much-anticipated return to the stage only to find at the beginning of his performance that a sniper (John Cusack) lurks in the rafters and threatens to kill him and his wife (Kerry Bishé) if he plays a wrong note.

This is a challenging premise for director Eugenio Mira, working from a screenplay by Damien Chazelle, but the movie only lightly stretches credibility as Tom grapples with the dual pressure of solving a life-threatening mystery and perfectly performing some difficult pieces. The script undergoes serious contortions to keep the stakes high, presenting Tom with brand-new obstacles at a fevered clip.

Wood ably juggles the intense circumstances with a performance that seems appropriately wound-up but focused, with a Zen center amid the frenzy.

In short, “Grand Piano” is an extended set piece with tension that starts high and remains elevated throughout. Mira’s camera spins, dives and soars throughout the concert hall, ranging from POV images to steady zooms and sustained long shots, with at least one of De Palma’s favored split screens thrown in for good measure. You’re constantly disoriented, hyper-aware of the stakes at hand.

The director ably reflects the classical score by Victor Reyes in the very marrow of the film, directing with the passion and intensity of a great conductor helming an unforgettable symphony.