Posted on Tuesday, November 19th, 2019 by Joshua Meyer
Netflix’s Earthquake Bird, which hit the streaming service last Friday, uses expat life in Tokyo as the backdrop for a murder mystery. Scored by Atticus Ross, the film stars Alicia Vikander, Riley Keough, Jack Huston, and Japanese actors Naoki Kobayashi and Kiki Sukezana—the latter of whom recently played the central antagonist in AMC’s The Terror: Infamy. Ridley Scott also serves as a co-producer here, as he did with that series.
There’s a long line of Hollywood movies set in Japan, many of which betray a decidedly ethnocentric perspective. When we first meet Vikander’s character, she’s working as a translator, doing subtitles for Scott’s 1989 yakuza thriller, Black Rain. As a Netflix film, Earthquake Bird comes on the heels of last year’s The Outsider, another such thriller that cast everyone’s least favorite Joker, Jared Leto, in the role of an unlikely yakuza enforcer. In contrast to that movie’s hollow posturing, Earthquake Bird is much more grounded in some semblance of recognizable reality. It isn’t a perfect film, but parts of it ring truer than the typical “gaijin in Tokyo” flick, because it was made with an eye toward authenticity by a director who lived in Japan and an actress who committed herself to learning Japanese.