A By-The-Numbers Thriller
On paper, Netflix’s mystery thriller Earthquake Bird has quite the interesting story line. I must admit, it had me quite intrigued as I wondered how the movie would develop and deliver on its inevitable tense and thrilling moments. The answer is, it doesn’t. Earthquake Bird doesn’t quite reach the heights expected with other, more prolific psychological thrillers, failing to give us a decent narrative and feeling very slow and predictable through its run-time.
The story is based in 1989 Japan where expat Lucy Fly is brought to the police station as her missing friend Lily has been found dead by the harbour. We then proceed to watch the story unfold backwards, beginning with how Lucy met and became slightly obsessed with her boyfriend Teiji, but also jealous of her new friend Lily. The plot then slowly develops on her growing paranoia as she deals with the ghosts of her past.
Earthquake Bird certainly has the potential to be a decent psychological thriller ,with a story involving a quiet Swedish girl lost in Japan and the mystery of her missing friend. However, the movie falls flat when it comes to building tension and barely offers any decent plot twists to keep us hooked throughout its run-time. While the film does keep us guessing until the final few minutes, the ending is a little predictable and fails to impress.
It doesn’t help that the two main leads lack any sort of chemistry together. This works against the movie too, especially given the character-driven plot pivoting around Lucy’s growing obsession. Having said that, Alicia Vikander does give a good performance which is even more impressive given she learnt Japanese for her role. She appears to pull it off fairly well too, allowing you to truly believe she’s fluent in the language. Riley Keough also manages to give the movie some life as well but beyond those notable appearances, there isn’t much else worth getting excited about.
Director Wash Westmoreland does do a good job showcasing the beauty of Japan and its customs though with some gorgeous cinematography. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the peaceful tranquility of Mount Fuji, there’s some wonderful locations used here, along with the inclusion of traditions like Karaoke and Kimonos to further add to the authenticity.
One of the themes Earthquake Bird tackles is that of death, especially as Lucy claims that it always follows her. While we do eventually find out what she means by this statement, the movie fails to really capitalize on this plot device, which is frustrating as it could have made this a psychological thriller more memorable.
Earthquake Bird’s biggest problem though stems from its slow-paced narrative, failing to capture those elements of a good thriller, including tension building and a quicker pace. It’s frustrating because this film had a lot of potential but unfortunately the execution causes it to come across as generic and bland. For anyone looking for a decent psychological thriller, Earthquake Bird is not that film. It’s beautiful, no doubt, but that’s not enough to make this an exciting thriller worth persevering with.