Netflix’s Spanish heist thriller La Casa de Papel is an incredibly tense, stunning piece of entertainment. Every episode leads to the next, building the drama before the breathtaking, explosive finale. Not since the first season of Prison Break has a show managed to capture such raw excitement and suffocating tension in this genre quite like La Casa de Papel.
The colourful host of characters are intelligently written, riddled with believable flaws and beliefs that give an extra dimension to their personas lacking in many other shows. It’s a shame the language barrier will turn some people away as this is one of the best thrillers to be released in quite some time, especially with its cliffhanger ending that leaves it wide open for a second season.
The opening shot, bathed in red lighting, shows our main character Tokio (Úrsula Corberó) mourning the death of her partner in crime who died during a robbery together. On the run, Tokio is recruited by a mysterious man known as The Professor (Álvaro Morte) along with a handful of other uniquely talented people to take part in the biggest heist of all time. Their mission is simple: gain entry to the Factory of Moneda and Timbre and steal 2400 million Euros.
There’s a slight hint of influence from Ocean’s 11 to begin with; flashy visuals and a unique presentation given to each of the thieves give some crucial background before cutting to the day of the robbery and following the characters from there. The unique perspective shift between the police, all-seeing-Big-Brother The Professor and those inside the Factory give a unique vantage point for the audience and keep the show feeling exciting throughout. It’s during these shifting perspectives that La Casa shrugs off any similarities to other shows and dances to its own drum beat. It’s here that a unique, suffocating tension hangs over every scene, relentlessly keeping you glued to the screen while the action unfolds.
Although Tokio is the main focus here with her narration driving the plot forward, other key players step forward throughout the series blurring the line between who to root for. Spunky Police Detective Raquel (Itziar Ituño) sways between exasperated annoyance and steely gazed focus through the show and as her conviction grows, so too does the likeability toward her character. Acting as a mirror image to this is Berlin (Pedro Alonso), the man in charge of the heist on the inside who grows more unstable and unlikable as the series progresses.
Late on in the series The Professor takes the reigns and the second half of the show features him trying to outsmart the police with increasingly desperate and risky tactics. This clever use of switching character perspectives helps La Casa stand out with its lack of stereotypical, archetypal characters. Even Helsinki (Darko Peric) and Oslo (Roberto García Ruiz), the self-proclaimed muscles of the group, have some care put into their characters too, making them feel like real people rather than dispensable, hired goons.
The cinematography and composition don’t focus as prominently as the plot and characters but there’s still a good use of colour and camera angles to give La Casa De Papel a stylish, slick feel to it. The colours used in shots are dominated by recurring reds, sickly greens and whites that feature prominently throughout. This juxtaposition of bold colours reinforces the attention to detail given with La Casa De Papel and helps it stand out from other heist thrillers out there.
La Casa De Papel is simply an incredibly entertaining and intense TV show. Some might find the Spanish in this heist thriller a little overwhelming, especially with 13 episodes varying between 45 and 55 minutes, but for those willing to look past this you’re sure to be rewarded. It’s hard to fault La Casa and every part of this show is so intricately connected, so well written and entertaining that when a show like this comes along, it deserves to be applauded and praised.
As a nitpick, there’s a few too many sex scenes used to pad out the show but its a minor gripe in what’s otherwise an incredible show. When it comes to the crime thriller genre, there’s a lot of well known names in this field which makes the feat La Casa De Papel achieves here even more impressive. La Casa is one of the best series to come out of 2017 and a benchmark for other crime thrillers to aspire to.
Verdict - 9.5/10