Netflix’s La Casa de Papel introduces us to a loveable group of rag-tag robbers in this sleek and intelligent Spanish heist thriller series. Here’s our review of the first season.
La Casa de Papel translates to “The House of Paper” in English, though it has been renamed Money Heist. This show has become one of Netflix’s most successful international brands. The first season introduces us to an ensemble cast of intriguing and likable characters as they intend to lock themselves in the Royal Mint of Spain to print up to 2.4 billion euros in cash before disappearing with their shares.
Led by the mysterious and cunning Professor (Álvaro Morte) this small gang of career criminals, all of whom have adopted city names to protect their identities, spend five months in the Spanish countryside planning the country’s biggest heist. Then, they sneakily infiltrate the Mint donning red jumpsuits and unsettling masks of the famous Spanish artist Salvador Dalí.
The show is incredibly stylistic straight from the off with sleek visuals and cinematography, as well as a stunning opening title sequence that you simply cannot skip. Though it can’t be denied that some of the editing in some episodes may be considered a little too choppy or overly done.
Nevertheless, the show’s unique style doesn’t just apply to the visuals but also the narrative. The plot is told in past-tense in a non-linear fashion, with multiple flashbacks that occur before the heist. These are all given context by the show’s unreliable narrator, Tokyo (Úrsula Corberó). This is a welcome subversion from the typical outputs of the heist genre, which is stereotypically male-dominated.
This approach to the storytelling also allows the show to better establish the core relationships between its ensemble cast of characters, from romances to a father-son dynamic. Showing these moments in the metaphorical calm before the storm (the months training before the heist) gives more weight to the interactions between gang members whilst in intense situations.
On the other side of the heist are the police and local authorities, led by detective inspector Raquel Murillo (Itziar Ituño). A single mother with a young daughter and an elderly mother suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s, Raquel is torn between her high-intensity job and her family life. Circumstances that arguably make her more open to attention from the Professor himself.
Their dynamic is perhaps one of the most interesting and intriguing aspects of the season. The Professor tests Raquel’s patience during the day as the warped voice on the telephone and the mastermind behind the heist. Then, he cozies up to her as the warm stranger at the bar in the evenings.
Though the show has become a surprising international hit in recent months, it never shies away from its Spanish identity. In the years following the economic crash, the Spanish public held a deep mistrust of their authorities and institutions. In La Casa de Papel, both the narrative and the gang members play off those societal insecurities.
Maintaining a strict moral code the gang members attempt to get public opinion on their side, as though this is a Robin Hood situation. This leads to some pretty intense moments when it comes down to the treatment of the hostages, whom the gang members rope into their own criminal activities to varying degrees of effectiveness.
Ultimately, this first season lays the groundwork for a unique heist thriller with its own distinct identity. The broad ensemble cast provides us with likable anti-heroes, so much so you’ll be rooting for the robbers over the hostages. The series is also expertly crafted with multiple twists, turns and surprises that will have you sweating and shouting at the screen.
This article was originally published on 11/24/20