Suspend your beliefs and Lupin will have you grinning from ear to ear, for hours.
Complete with the slickness of a high-budget heist film and the mystery of thrilling whodunnit, Lupin, the new French series on Netflix, is a winner. This is largely due to Omar Sy (The Intouchables, Chocolat), who plays the series’ lead, Assane Diop.
The story plays out across two timelines and we learn that following a tragedy in his teens, Assane is forced to fend for himself. He dedicates his life to becoming a practitioner of the confidence tricks employed by his favourite literary character, Arsene Lupin – created by the real life French novelist Maurice Leblanc. Across the course of five episodes, we watch as this master of disguise attempts to right a wrong.
Within a week of its release, Lupin is the second most-watched show on Netflix, and it’s easy to see why. It has all the elements for success; a thrilling source text, the beautiful backdrop of Paris, and the perfect run time (approximately 45 minutes per episode). The pilot episode succeeds in gaining your attention and keeping you hooked. Drawing inspiration from Leblanc’s story and utilising the key tropes of all great crime thrillers, we watch as Asane attempts to carry out a grand jewellery heist of the Queen’s Necklace. This necklace, made of pearls and diamonds, was said to have previously belonged to Marie-Antionette and is crucially linked to the tragedy which permanently altered Assane’s life. Through some clever, genre-aware storytelling, the audience is wrong-footed into believing this bumbling heist has gone awry and our protagonist has failed in episode one. However, when all is explained at the end of the episode – in true heist film fashion – we realise that we have underestimated both Asane and the showrunners.
Of course, you cannot have a show about a conman without an actor who is adequately confident and alluring. In the case of Omar Sy, he goes beyond all expectations. Born in France to Mauritanian and Senegalese parents, Sy shot to fame in 2011 following his role in the comedic drama, The Intouchables. His inherent charisma was arguably what made that film so enjoyable, and this is also the case in Lupin. With every smile, every compliment paid and every well-hatched plan, you only root for him more. More importantly, in the instances when the writing begins to leave you with more questions than answers or introduces you to one-too-many new characters, Omar Sy succeeds in re-grounding you. His character is so loveable that you will overlook the, sometimes obvious, plot holes.
As well as the flaws in the writing, the lack of diversity amongst the cast is also an issue. Yes, the series has a black lead (and three other black male characters), however, the film is almost completely absent of black women. Aside from the sole black woman actor, who plays a cleaner, we are not shown any other black female characters; we are not even shown a photograph of Assane’s mother, who we assume to be deceased. This will undoubtedly, and understandably, be an issue for some. It detracts from the fact that our lead character is black and adds to the incredulity of the plot: Paris is a city full of black women and more importantly, does Assane not have any aunties?
Nonetheless, Lupin is an easy and enjoyable watch, which will leave you wanting more.
Lupin is available to watch now on Netflix.