La Casa de Papel TV Review
Since I took Spanish for a few years in High School and freshman year of college, I consider myself not just fluent, but a born Spaniard. This, combined with a recent affection for foreign-language movies, urged me into a collision path with Netflix's (relatively) new show, "La Casa de Papel". *
*Recently, its name changed to "Money Heist", which is unequivocally worse in every way, so I'll be sticking with the old title for the duration of this review.
"La Casa de Papel" is a bank heist movie, a crime thriller, a romantic drama, and a character study all in one bombastic, crazy package. It follows Tokyo, a young woman whose criminal life took a turn for the worse when her boyfriend is killed on a bank robbery they did together. At the end of her rope, she is about to walk into a trap set by the police when she is intercepted by a mysterious man known only as "The Professor", who promises her riches, thrills, and the greatest bank heist of all time. She soon finds herself assigned the code name "Tokyo" alongside eight other highly specialized, similarly-nicknamed cohorts as they plan to rob the biggest bank in Spain, The Royal Mint.
"La Casa de Papel" is one of those shows that you need to watch with somebody else. I felt that instantly after the first episode, and so convinced my friend Francis to binge it alongside me. The result is magical. Every episode is a crazy cliffhanger, and we could not put it down until almost 6 in the morning. The writing is breakneck, and not once in its 22 episode runtime does it cease throwing curveballs.
The show doles out extremes left and right, as personified excellently in both the best and worst characters. The Professor, the mastermind outside of the bank itself who pulls millions of tiny strings and sets off absurd Rube Goldberg-like plot devices to ensure the robbery's success, is easily the baddest MF I've seen in a long time. He oozes confidence and competence, and he steals every scene he's in. He's the most fun character in the show. Tokyo, on the other hand, is wildly incompetent throughout the entire adventure, to the point that Francis and I booed her every time she was on screen and concluded amongst ourselves that she alone is the cause of every complication the robbers encounter. I'm not even kidding, if you really step back and look at it, she is a terrible character who contributes nothing to the group at large and actively impedes pretty much all progress. I hate her guts. And that's a problem, because she's both the narrator and the main character.
All of the other actors do a great job, helped by the excellent visual design. The Salvador Dali masks the robbers wear are beyond awesome, and the Royal Mint itself offers some very pretty and very intimidating views. The character designs are amazing, each robber easily identifiable in posture or mannerism despite wearing masks and the same orange jumpsuit. And the police tent outside is claustrophobic and tense.
I could go on, but I don't think I will. I'll just conclude by saying that, if you can get over the abject uselessness of the main character, everything else about this is the greatest bank heist show ever, and one of the best action-thrillers in general. Don't be scared by the subtitles; trust me, you won't be able to look away from the screen anyways.