In the past few years, Netflix has acquainted mainstream world audiences to the talents of creators in non-English speaking countries. With Lupin, Netflix has the potential to take the world by storm once again.
Lupin is a modern retelling of the classic books on the adventures of Arsène Lupin, a gentleman thief — an anti-hero created by Maurice Leblanc in 1905.
The series follows Assane Diop (Omar Sy), a debonair thief, who resurfaces after 25 years to settle a score. His father killed himself after he was unjustly imprisoned for stealing a priceless necklace originally belonging to Marie Antoinette, leaving Diop all alone at the tender age of 14.
Diop swears to exact revenge on Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre), the narcissistic, pitiless multimillionaire, who employed Diop’s father and accused him of stealing the necklace even though he had no proof.
His father’s last gift to him before his death was a copy of the Arsène Lupin book. The books changed Diop’s life as they guided him through thick and thin, essentially transforming into Lupin.
25 years later, Diop seeks vengeance as he hatches a plan to steal the very necklace that was the reason his father was imprisoned and bring down Pellegrini once and for all.
Omas Sy is Assane Diop. Sy effortlessly inhabits the character of the urbane thief. Diop’s character is essentially equal parts Sherlock Holmes, Luther, and James Bond. He is smart, charming and fun to watch. In his many disguises, his body language changes to such an extent that Sy himself really does seem to be a master of disguise.
Hervé Pierre is absolutely detestable as the egocentric magnate. Pierre does not have many pivotal scenes but he is nonetheless captivating in the ones he is in.
Ludivine Sagnier as Claire, Diop’s ex-wife makes Diop’s character more grounded and gives the story some depth and real stakes.
Other supporting actors like Nicole Garcia as Madame Anne Pellegrini, Vincent Garanger as Dumont and Soufaine Guerrab as Youssef Guedira are also excellent additions to the cast.
Lupin has a vast source material to choose from. Modern retellings of such classics with mere inspirations from the original books usually do not go well with the fans of the original work.
Lupin takes a very interesting route by making the Lupin books exist in the reality of the series. This not only grounds the series but differentiates Diop from Lupin as well. Complaints of Diop not being like Lupin don’t hold because Diop is just one of the millions of readers inspired by Lupin.
The show has a set format. It follows the beats of a conventional mystery or a heist story but the execution has quite a few red herrings in the mix that have the potential to surprise even the most avid consumers of such content.
Instead of being throwaway characters that are failed attempts to add motivation or hurdles to Diop’s quest, the chemistry between the Diop and his family, especially, the extra screen time that is given to Claire and Diop’s relationship makes Lupin surprisingly heartfelt.
Similarly, Dumont, the police officer who locked up Diop’s father, is also a grey character and very well written.
The music in the series, from appropriately used songs to the original score, is excellent. The theme of Diop’s character summarises Lupin fairly well. It starts off as a classic tune but then adds modern elements along the way, just like the series itself does.
Lupin is also quite aesthetic. It incorporates several visually stunning closeups that almost look like portraits but it does not do this at the expense of the understanding of the events of the screen themselves.
Lupin has all the elements that can elevate it from an above-average show to a great one but unfortunately, it does not tap into it.
Lupin takes safe conventional writing choices, making it fun but inconsequential. This holds true for not only the story of the series but also its subtext. There is some degree of social commentary in the series but it’s all surface level. The background and backstory of Diop seem like a failed opportunity for the show to strike at something deeper.
The series follows a non-linear format. The scenes of the past are a hit or a miss. Some work exceedingly well while others are a waste of time.
The English dub is as usual immensely disappointing. The series must be watched with subtitles.
Lupin is an engaging adaptation of equally engaging books about the antics of an antihero.
Devotees of the original content may not enjoy Lupin a lot because of its deviance from the source material but those unaware of Lupin would certainly enjoy this simple, albeit entertaining series from France.