Amazon Prime’s new quarter of a billion-dollar acquisition, the long-awaited, and ultimately serviceable, Citadel, is a spy caper which trades unapologetically on star power. Deepening Richard Madden’s credentials for sultry espionage, chunks of whose career appears to double as extended auditions for a certain spy franchise of a very British persuasion, and showcasing the indelible blockbuster quality of Priyanka Chopra Jonas’s screen presence, the series, already commissioned for a second season, also brings along elder statesmen Stanley Tucci and Lesley Manville for some delicious scenery chewing.
It’s certainly a bit of a mish-mash of already existing ideas and set-pieces, opening with the enduring formula of a train brawl, which, in this case, involves Mason Kane (Madden) and Nadia Sinh (Chopra Jonas), ex-spouses and current agents of Citadel, a global spy syndicate, supposedly above national allegiance and operating for the greater good. After their current mission goes awry, Kane and Sinh’s memory-wiping chips are activated, leaving them to build new lives, with only flashes of their previous existence flaring up in their dreams.
That is until Tucci’s Bernard Orlick, the pinnacle of Citadel’s hierarchy, a bitingly sarcastic boss at that, tracks down Kane, and forces him back into his old life, away from his family, and towards Sinh, who has since built her new life in Valencia. The purpose for this interruption is that Manticore (the string-puller of which is Dahlia Archer, played by an energised Manville having an absolute whale of a time) somewhat of an evil twin to Citadel, has tracked down a case dumped by the latter which contains the boogeyman of all intel boogymen” nuclear codes.
It’s far-fetched and ridiculous, but knowingly so, in a kind of wry, tongue-in-cheek sort of way. Executive produced by the Russo Brothers, Citadel is much livelier than the dirge that was The Gray Man, and tonally straddles closer to the gravitational pull of Guy Ritchie’s Operation Fortune than Bourne, with admittedly flashier, and better, action set-pieces than the former. It’s somewhat of an interesting concept, however: the timeless “pulled back in” narrative of spy and crime stories, coupled with a Nolan-esque amnesia trope. The intrigue of this central conceit at least cuts through the noise of the first two episodes. Whether it can be maintained is doubtful, but, so far at least, Citadel is a serviceably mind-numbing potboiler.
Citadel is released on Prime Video on 28th April 2023.
Watch the trailer for Citadel here: