Good trailers for movies and TV shows, as well as the overall marketing around the projects, are meant to get you excited. It can inform the casual section of the audience about the menu and why they should give it a taste, in case they aren’t fans of the genre. No point in guessing what bad trailers and marketing can do. With that said, though, “Citadel” is an exception. The trailers did nothing for me, as they mostly highlighted the action and spy-related stuff that we’ve seen a hundred times before. The press tour has focused on Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ sweet-and-then-very-sour history with Bollywood and how this is going to connect to other shows set in the same universe. Therefore, my expectations from it were subterranean. However, I was kind of blown away while watching the show because, intentionally or accidentally, the marketing department had kept the best part under wraps, i.e., the chemistry between Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra.
Disclaimer: “Citadel” Review is based on the first three episodes that were shared with the press by Amazon Prime Video.
“Citadel” starts off with an agent of the titular agency, Nadia Sinh, aboard a train to take on an asset named Gregor, who is carrying uranium and is under the protection of some rogue agents from a rival spy agency known as Manticore. Nadia is joined by her colleague, Mason Kane, and both of them are being guided remotely by Bernard. Things seem to be going according to plan, with the Citadel agents thinking that they’ve got the upper hand there.
As soon as Nadia engages Gregor and Mason takes on his bodyguard, it becomes clear that they’ve been ambushed. In addition to that, they are forced to see the destruction of the Citadel in real time, unable to do anything to stop it. Nadia and Mason try to fight off the hordes of Manticore agents for as long as they can. However, since there’s a kill-no-capture order on the duo, Gregor decides to set off a massive explosion, thereby derailing the train. Nadia and Mason are separated after the crash, and their memories are erased. Now, they’ve got to find a way to continue Citadel’s work while Manticore tries to destabilize the world.
If that sounds a lot like “Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation” meets “The Bourne Identity,” it is because they are quite similar, and I want to say that the writers of “Citadel” are aware of this. Given how the spy action-thriller genre is older than this medium of entertainment, there aren’t a lot of new ways to tell such stories without getting too political. Therefore, you can either make it all about the charisma of the actors, the setpieces, or something entirely different.
For example, Nadia is loaded with subtext pertaining to Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ professional and personal journey, much like Shah Rukh Khan’s character was in “Pathaan.” She talks about returning to being in the thick of things again and taunting Gregor for thinking she’s a “minor league player,” thereby making it sound like it’s about Nadia as well as Priyanka. But that’s just my personal guesswork. Apart from that, the writers don’t waste time on too much exposition. Instead, they allow the characters to communicate, joke, and strategize in a very conversational fashion. In doing so, every single face on the screen feels fleshed out, and the poster boy and poster girl of the series get to flex their ability to melt our small screens.
Yes, “Citadel” has some amazing actors in it. Stanley Tucci, as always, is a delight as a mixture of M and Q from the James Bond franchise and Benji from “Mission: Impossible.” The great Lesley Manville, who is synonymous with playing such sweet characters, is downright scary as one of the heads of Manticore. Hearing her say the F-word is fun. Roland Møller as the heavies, Anders and Davik Silje, is quite intimidating. Moira Kelly’s chemistry with Tucci is interesting. And Ashleigh Cummings as Abby is aptly mysterious.
Priyanka and Richard, though, are too good. Their casual banter, the way they flirt with each other, their overall body language—everything about them is so infectious. It seems like, after a long time, we’ve found a spy couple who we want to be like or want to be with. Once you’re done falling head-over-heels in love with Priyanka and Madden, you’ll start to notice how natural their reactions to every situation are. They aren’t always cold or calculative. They get to be vulnerable, express fear, and scream if they’re in pain, thereby making them feel human instead of soulless terminators. Additionally, they carry off the action sequences well, with a lot of help from their amazing stunt doubles, of course.
Speaking of the action, it leaves much to be desired. I’m sort of happy that instead of trying to ape the “John Wick” franchise (which has become the go-to reference point for action-heavy IPs), creator David Weil, along with his cinematographers and production designers, have leaned towards the look of “Rogue Nation” and “Mission: Impossible: Fallout,” especially with lens flares. The setpieces boast variety as well, jumping from trains to highways, cabins to restaurants, and snowy mountain chases (which is an obvious Bond reference, albeit with a little feminist twist). There’s a lot of practical stunt work and competent CGI and VFX work as well. However, the way they are edited and put together makes the viewing experience quite jarring.
I think audiences have become used to action sequences with long takes, and they don’t associate constant cutting with thrills anymore. So, why not just let every piece of the choreography breathe? Well, hopefully, you’ll get used to the style as the episodes progress and be too distracted by Priyanka and Richard’s romance to notice it. I don’t know if you’ll get used to the constantly rotating camera, though. I keep saying that the camera needs to move more to make things dynamic. But this is just too much. The score is constantly a bop, though, as it morphs and changes according to the locations, which feel real until a shoddy green screen composite gives away the fact that the actors were never there.
In conclusion, “Citadel” works best when, instead of relying on character or plot-related revelations, it allows the actors to stay in the moment and interact with each other, either with their punches or words. Or when the camera lingers on the thin piece of cloth covering Nadia and Mason’s nether regions, and the lighting perfectly hits their borderline artistic scars which tell their own stories. Other than that, you probably won’t find anything new here. But you won’t be bored either because the episodes move at a good pace, thereby making the viewing experience quite pleasant. That’s just my opinion, though. Please watch all the episodes of “Citadel,” form your own opinion, and let us know what you think about the show.