The plot, like many of the best Hitchcock films, is simple - Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood), a master pianist who left in disgrace after mangling a near impossible piece written by his mentor, returns to the stage five years later. His wife (Kerry Bishe) urged him for months to return to the concert hall; now wracked with stage fright, Selznick tries to make the best of things. It doesn’t help that he’ll be playing on the very grand piano of his mentor, the same piano that he lost his wits on five years before.
But once he takes the stage, the pieces are set into motion. When he opens his playbook, written in red ink on the page is the simple missive - “Play one wrong note and you’re dead.” Then he seens the sniper rifle dot on his arm, and on his wife’s head in the balcony. Through an ear piece, the assassin (John Cusack) informs him that he has no reservations in killing him and his wife if he plays badly. If he tells anyone, or manages to get a message out, he and his wife are dead.