(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The SeriesLupin

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: Assane Diop (Omar Sy) is a dashing thief who is inspired to take on a life of crime by the exploits of fictional gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, and by the arrest and suicide of his wrongfully convicted father after he was framed for the theft of a precious necklace. When the necklace resurfaces 25 years later, Assane vows to prove his father’s innocence and to find the people responsible for his death.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: You may have noticed an odd French series taking one of the top 10 spots on Netflix last weekend — the first French-language series earn one of those spots in the U.S. You might have thought, what’s the deal with Lupin? Is it that good? Well, I’m here to tell you: it is.

Lupin has a bit of a confused legacy in pop culture. First there’s Arsène Lupin, the gentleman thief created by French novelist Maurice Leblanc in 1905, who starred in a series of novels that would go on to inspire several crime films through the 1940s. Then there’s Lupin the III, the character created by manga author Monkey Punch in 1967 which would introduce a new master thief descended from the first one (he’s Arsène Lupin’s grandson), and would become a Japanese icon through various anime series and, most famously, the star of Hayao Miyazaki’s directorial debut.

And now we have Assane Diop, played with dazzling wit and charisma by Omar Sy (finally well-served by a role after his breakout turn in The Intouchables), a character who isn’t really related to Arsène Lupin at all. Instead, in a clever meta-fictional twist that allows Lupin to bring the gentleman thief into the modern age, he’s only inspired by Lupin, basing some of his best heists and gotchas off the fictional exploits of the literary character. But all that backstory isn’t necessary to enjoy Lupin (I certainly came into it from a weird direction, having only heard of Arsène Lupin through Miyazaki’s Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro).

The first episode, directed by The Transporter filmmaker Louis Leterrier, drops you right in the middle of the action, as Assane is readying to steal a priceless necklace from the Louvre, with the help of an unwitting team of low-level criminals. In flashbacks, we learn that Assane was the son of a Senegalese immigrant who worked as a valet for the Pellegrinis, a wealthy family that owned the necklace before it disappeared and Assane’s father was imprisoned for its theft — but not before he left Assane with a copy of Arsène Lupin. Now the necklace is back in the public eye, and Assane, who has based his life around emulating the exploits of the gentleman thief, wants answers about his father’s unjust conviction. Each episode brings us a little closer to the answer, with a new frothy, absurd adventure taking center stage in each hour of the five-part series.

You know the big third-act reveal of every Ocean’s Eleven movie that leaves your jaw on the floor and your mind trying to figure out “how did they do that?!” Well, they manage to do that with every episode of Lupin, ending with a tantalizing tease of how Assane is getting one step closer to his revenge. And with the added element of Assane’s immigrant background, it makes Lupin far deeper and more interesting than a typical heist story.

Lupin is a nimble and delightful charmer of a caper series that will be sure to feed anyone’s craving for a sleek Ocean’s Eleven-style heist, anchored by a electric performance by Sy, who plays the role with a twinkle in his eye and a spring in his step —part Sherlock Holmes intellect, part Idris Elba gravitas. He’s the smartest, most prepared person in the room and you just can’t wait to see how he finds his way out of the next conundrum.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: