“Lupin”: A 2021 Must-Watch

Nicolas Valayannopoulos-Akrivou, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Falcon Rating: 5/5

Breaking ground as the first French show to reach the top of American and global Netflix charts just weeks after release, Lupin has taken the world by storm. Created by George Kay in collaboration with François Uzan, the show takes inspiration from Arsène Lupin, a “gentleman burglar,” imagined by French author Maurice Leblanc in 1905. Assane Diop, the protagonist, is a Franco-Senegalese “gentleman burglar” whose acts are inspired by that of his favorite hero, Arsène Lupin (think Sherlock Holmes meets Robin Hood). 

This show is more of a tribute to Maurice Leblanc’s work than a true adaptation. Like Arsène, Assane’s life will be turned upside down by the theft of Marie Antoinette’s necklace, held by the family that his father chauffeurs. His father Babakar (Fargass Assandé) is accused of theft. Pushed to the limit, Babakar hangs himself in his cell, leaving his son to inherit a single book of the adventures of the gentleman burglar. The young man will thus discover his vocation. Twenty years later, the necklace resurfaces at an auction. Assane will do everything to bring out the truth and gain revenge against wealthy businessman Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre), whom he blames for Babakar’s death. 

‘Lupin’ has its moments of flash and glam, but it is also a personal, complex story about the haves and have-nots.

Along with directors Louis Leterrier and Marcela Said, producers Kay and Uzan do a remarkable job of keeping the tone mostly light while putting weight on Assane’s quest to hurt Pellegrini — and the collateral damage caused by this mission. The story moves through different periods of Assane’s life, not only showing us his childhood before and after Babakar’s death, but revisiting aspects of each heist after the act to reveal exactly how he pulled it off (in that respect, Leterrier’s experience directing the first “Now You See Me” film comes in very handy). Despite the original opinion that this fractured narrative can be confusing, the story itself has enough energy such that the plot flows together nicely. 

Assane charms the audience, much thanks to Omar Sy’s phenomenal performance. From the touching family moments to the charisma he exudes while executing his schemes, Sy shines as the lead. Sy’s acting makes Assane’s transformations all the more believable. 

Through the employment of well-thought-out plans and detailed getaways, Assane is unique in a world full of violent showdowns and major gunfights. It is almost as if viewers could pull off these schemes themselves. Then there are all of the disguises Assane puts on. Half the fun is figuring out how he manages to pull his acts off.

Lupin has its moments of flash and glam, but it is also a personal, complex story about the haves and have-nots. Yes, Assane commits crimes for a living—but so do the rich and powerful like Pellegrini on a more massive level, and they do so with impunity and hurt people in the process, mirroring the socialist versus capitalist context of the original novel. One such person caught in the web is Assane’s father, a hardworking driver from Senegal, whose arc will tug at your heartstrings in the show.

Watching Lupin will have you rooting for the suave burglar as you reevaluate perceptions on right versus wrong, innocent versus guilty, vengeance versus justice, and other dualities. When you understand where he comes from and the adversity he has had to face, it’s more satisfying to watch Assane use people’s prejudices to rob them blind while bearing a smile.