Citadel review: Priyanka Chopra and Richard Madden are the only solace of this lackluster, derivative spy thriller
Rating: 2 STARS
While the other passengers on the moving train are dressed casually, in walks Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra), serene beauty in a stylish red dress with a deep cleavage. She is a spy of Citadel, the world’s biggest and most covert spy organization. She is on a mission to honey-trap a particular individual. Her co-partner Mason Kane (Richard Madden), a handsome hunk dressed in a smart blazer, walks in a few minutes later. Both sit next to each other and begin talking. And as they begin to converse, they switch from English to Italian to Spanish to German to Mandarin, all while having a simple introductory conversation.
Tell me, isn’t this the most obvious sign that you’re a spy? Other than a spy, who needs to be fluent in numerous international languages? And is it necessary to wear such overtly stylish attire in a simple train journey? If you are a spy and want to keep your identity hidden from the rest of the crowd, simply mingle with them rather than sticking out due to your unusually stylish attire and interaction style.
This is how we are introduced to our two main protagonists in Amazon Prime Video’s new spy thriller series ‘Citadel’. But something goes wrong, and a bomb goes off on a train, causing both to lose their memories. We are suddenly fast-forwarded by eight years. Both persons are now living wonderfully happy lives under completely new identities, with no recollection of their past. But their past soon comes knocking on their door, and they have no choice but to answer their past in order to ensure the security of their present and future- not just their own and their families’, but the entire world’s.
The basic one liner premise of ‘Citadel’ is genuinely intriguing- world’s most covert intelligence agency formed by spies which is not tied to any nation but only loyal to humanity is quite intelligent (pun intended). “Spy agencies have started wars, assassinated world leaders, and killed innocents,” Stanley Tucci’s character admits, “so Citadel was founded to serve no interest but humanity’s,” his character confesses during one interaction.
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Some individuals dislike intense romantic drama, while others dislike horror films, and there are also few who don’t enjoy comedy films, yet action is the sole genre that does not have any detractors. I’m sure individuals who support and believe in nonviolence also appreciate excellent action when it’s executed well. People will willingly watch even mediocre derivative stuff in this genre if it is executed well. But does it mean that as a creator, you shouldn’t even try to create anything distinctive and different in this genre?
Secret spies losing their memories, to a global threat on the verge of establishing a new world order, not only the plot but also the execution in this new spy thriller web series made with the simple goal of matching the global reach of its platform, and start a potential franchise that could lead to multiple international spinoffs, is pretty lackluster and derivative.
The first two episodes, totaling a runtime of roughly around 75 minutes, felt rushed and overly familiar. It’s as if the writers ran the script through A.I. to ensure it ticked all the genre tropes. There are a handful of action-set pieces that are also really well choreographed, shot, and executed. However, as previously stated, there is little that is new or unique here. Everything appears too familiar, from the choreography of the action set pieces to the camera movement and the overall production design, especially to someone who has seen films and shows of this genre previously.
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When it comes to the performances of Priyanka Chopra and Richard Madden, there is nothing to brag about, but there is also nothing to criticize. In other words, both Priyanka Chopra and Richard Madden have done their jobs. They’re also really excellent at it. But the problem is that they simply haven’t been asked to do much in the first two episodes.
I’m not saying that ‘Citadel’ will remain a lackluster derivative spy thriller throughout it’s runtime of 10 episodes; it certainly has the potential to improve. There are eight more episodes, so there is plenty of time to improve, but that effort should be visible from the very next episode.