There’s a few things in this film that leave you having to stretch the imagination if you want to get wrapped up in the thriller it’s attempting to create. A little flaw here and there doesn’t make it a bad film mind you, it just doesn’t make it as great in being tightly wound as it could have been.
After five years and a stage fright mess up that still affects him, pianist Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) returns to the stage in honour of his late mentor and composer Patrick Godureaux. This night may bring about even more fright however as his score sheets are tainted with notes leading Tom to realise he’s being watched by a sniper, who wants Tom to perform the unplayable piece he messed up on last time around. If not the threat of him or his wife being shot is very real.
Now, this premise is a cool and basic little idea that interested me from the outset, before even watching the movie. I head of the main plot summary and that enticed me and on the whole, the delivery of the idea itself is well handled, if not rushed to get into it all. I can’t think how swept under the carpet a snipers red aim laser is, wouldn’t anyone at all see the light dotting about the stage?! Apart from this and a few shaky moments concerning Tom’s predicament, the set up works and when it gets going it definitely has some thrilling qualities.
Victor Reyes’ music is fantastic and trickling with that hair rising vibe to immerse you into the terrifying world Tom is in. Having a piano as the grand central tool is a sure fire way to include melodic piano scores that burst with mood and atmosphere. As Tom plays the final piece it elevates and racks up in speed and tension really hitting the target of making the suspense do its necessary job.
The direction is mostly smooth, not much shaky camera work is a good benefit on the most part. It works in the music hall location desiring that velvety sturdy touch more than a gritty hand held thriller feel. There are lovely camera movements, such as the time it sweeps around and through the orchestra pit or when it revolves, uncut around Tom at the piano giving us more chance to breathe in this place and the trouble he is in. Even slight inclusions of visual effects don’t distract from the main note of the film.
The additional story of locksmiths and hidden fortunes trapped in unlockable music is a tad strange and Tamsin Egerton and Allen Leech’s characters do little more than grate and live as victims but the one setting is a fresh way to really build up the thriller angle more and the mostly unseen sniper speaking ‘Phonebooth’ style to the protagonist dehumanises him making the potential killer more unnerving.
Elijah Wood is a believable and not overly starry actor for this role making Tom come alive as a nervous and yet commanding presence when needed. It shows that his piano training came in handy as his fingers slide over the keys with elegance and precision leading there to be a grateful lack of cuts to obvious other hands doing the playing. He has immersing eyes that hold fear and that works in this plot as he is anxious about returning and then even more so as a nightmarish force holds him to play the perfect performance. John Cusack has little to nothing to do apart from speak lines and when he finally does appear he’s just a brutish figure knocking Tom about to get his way. It could have been a more effective thing if his name was left out of the opening credits, leading to a impacting shock when seeing the sniper step out of the shadows.
The ending is obvious and weak, there are flats to be found in this film but it has some sharp defined tropes that work in its favour, Wood is great and some taut aspects do enough to make it a sort of B-movie thriller.