What is the story about?
Assane Diop is on a mission to prove the innocence of his late chauffer-father who was accused of stealing a royal necklace at his owner’s residence – a crime the latter hadn’t committed. Diop’s father was working for an influential Parisian family, the Pellegrinis, at the time of the incident i.e. nearly twenty-five years ago. His traumatised father, unable to handle the humiliation, had later committed suicide in prison. The tragedy leaves behind deep scars on Diop’s childhood as his resolve to avenge his father’s death grows stronger with time. The key link to his retaliation is a book gifted by his father – Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar. The fictional character heavily influences Diop’s actions while plotting the downfall of Pellegrini, however, at the cost of his personal life.
Lupin is a befitting tribute to Arsène Lupin, the fictional thief from writer Maurice Leblanc’s literary universe that has inspired creators across multiple storytelling mediums for over a century. Diop, in many ways, embodies the spirit of the lead character in Leblanc’s work (his many aliases through the show are even anagrams of Lupin’s name). The show-makers efficiently utilise their literary inspiration to enrich a conventional redemption drama with sensitivity, exquisite detailing and multi-layered storytelling that entertains and also respects the intelligence of the viewer.
Diop isn’t merely visualised as a protagonist who’s trying to clear the criminal charges levelled against his late father, but also represents the seething anger of every black man who’s been at the receiving end of racial discrimination over the ages. The element of deceit and intelligence in Diop’s characterisation provides the viewer with all the visceral highs of a crime thriller – be it the smart twist to the necklace robbery sequence in the opening episode or the portions where Diop swaps places with a man behind bars with a hope to unlock more clues in his father’s case and even the kidnap of the commissioner who was instrumental in proving his father’s involvement in the robbery.
The strong emotional undercurrent builds a firm foundation and a fitting context to the actions of the protagonist. One gets to see the lead character through many lenses – as the loving son, the doting father, the vulnerable husband and an ever-dependable friend who never goes back on his word. The romance in his life and the multi-generational father-son rapport are charmingly established in sequences filled with warmth. The non-linear narration keeps the viewer on his toes and sustains the intrigue across the four-hour running time despite the predictable plot.
The character establishment is near-perfect with most pivotal characters getting enough time to showcase their truest emotions while also flashing their shades of grey - doesn’t matter if it’s Diop, his insecure partner Claire, the commissioner Dumont or even Pellegrini’s wife Anne, all get their due. The clichés in the plot are there for everyone to see – the protagonist despite being tactful is the underdog, those near and dear to him remain vulnerable, the filthy-rich antagonist is always in a position of immense power. The show may prove more rewarding to literary enthusiasts as it rightly depicts the power that a good book, its characters and events can hold in one’s life. Lupin, directed by Marcela Said, Ludovic Bernard, Louis Leterrier is sluggishly paced but rarely lets its momentum slip.
Omar Sy fits the bill as a doting father, caring son and most importantly as a man on a mission who consistently outsmarts the law with his uncanny ways. He gets the essence and the timing of the role right and looks dapper in the many avatars he dons through the show. Ludivine Sagnier makes the most of the opportunity to don an interesting role as Claire, a wife who remains forever in doubt about the mysteries that cloud her partner’s life. Clotilde Hesme, Antoine Guoy, Nicole Garcia, Soufiane Guerrab, and Vincent Londez play their brief parts to perfection. It helps that most actors stay true to the identity of the characters and never try to overpower it with any element of exaggeration.
Music & Other Departments
Mathieu Lamboley’s underplayed background score is the perfect foil for a show that takes its own sweet time to grow on the audiences. Christophe Nuyens and Martial Schmeltz as cinematographers do everything in their capacity to take the story forward without overtly trying to turn this into a showcase of their repertoire. The writing in the show is layered and very relevant for the times, finding a fine balance between its mass-pleasing moments and rooted storytelling. The production designer Françoise Dupertuis complement the cinematographers and the story with his attention to detail. The leisurely-pace of the narrative doesn’t always work well for the story – it could have certainly been slicker and precise in its execution.
- A lovely homage to the fictional character Arsène Lupin
- Fine performances
- Layered writing bolstered by strong execution
- The languid pace of the narrative
- Predictable plot
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?