Citadel review: An enjoyable if derivative spy romp

Mason Kane (Richard Madden) and Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) in Citadel. (Prime Video)
Mason Kane (Richard Madden) and Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) in Citadel. (Prime Video)
  • 📺 Where to watch Citadel: Prime Video from 28 April

  • ⭐️ Our rating: 3/5

  • 🍿 Watch it if you liked: Mission: Impossible, the Bourne films, James Bond

  • 🎭 Who's in it?: Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, Richard Madden, Stanley Tucci 

  • How long is it? 6 episodes x 45 minutes, 2 released at launch then weekly thereafter

  • 📖 What’s it about? Global spy agency Citadel has fallen, and its agents' memories were wiped clean. Now the powerful syndicate, Manticore, is rising in the void. Can the Citadel agents recollect their past and summon the strength to fight back?

High-octane action and lavish European locations are the hallmarks of Citadel – a super slick new espionage romp from Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo.

Featuring high-speed inter-railing fist fights, exotic femme fatales, and a touch of low-grade amnesia for suave black-op agents Mason Kane (Richard Madden) and Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra-Jonas), this Prime Video original is hamstrung by several unavoidable issues.

With inventive fight scenes, but a copybook crime syndicate in Manticore, Citadel struggles to be anything other than transparently stereotypical.

Read more: Everything new on Prime Video in May

As classified data concealed in high value hand luggage goes missing, omnipotent organisations threaten world domination, and English actor Lesley Manville embraces her inner villain as Dahlia.

Watch a clip from Citadel

Created by David Weil (Hunters), Josh Appelbaum (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), and Bryan Oh (The Vampire Diaries), Citadel feels like a greatest hits compilation of every mainstream spy movie ever made minus any original tracks of its own.

Following the slick introduction of the headline talent, which ends in high-speed carnage and injured uncertainty, Mason comes around in a hospital bed with no memory. Audiences are then subjected to an eight-year hiatus, which propels our anti-hero into everyman territory and momentarily eradicates any trace of his former life.

Richard Madden in Citadel. (Prime Video)
Richard Madden in Citadel. (Prime Video)

With a name change and perfect family in place, Mason is happily living in ignorance, even if visions of another woman haunt his dreams. However, this latent super-spy is now attending therapy sessions, communing with nature, and attempting to banish his all-action alter ego for good, when a series of improbable events unfold and propel the plot forward.

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Whatever gets said about Citadel, there is no doubt that the actors involved are having fun. Stanley Tucci (Bernard) is on laid back form as Citadel wrangler, tech savvy supremo, and indifferent confidant to Mason, as mainstream masterpieces are pilfered for their solid gold moments, and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas scene steals at every opportunity.

Bernard Orlick (Stanley Tucci) in Citadel. (Prime Video)
Bernard Orlick (Stanley Tucci) in Citadel. (Prime Video)

Citadel is not to trying to re-invent the wheel when it comes to espionage, but instead, aims to deliver some good old-fashioned entertainment. It avoids the raw violence of Bourne but embraces the Roger Moore era of Bond, with some blatant cinematic lifts from Skyfall and GoldenEye thrown in as well.

Action sequences are polished and conceived with panache, while fight scenes are propelled along by decent choreography and committed performances from all involved. However, Citadel comes unstuck by being too slick, too polished, and inherently empty as a result.

It feels manufactured rather than encouraged organically to give audiences anything new.

Dahlia Archer (Lesley Manville) in Citadel. (Prime Video)
Dahlia Archer (Lesley Manville) in Citadel. (Prime Video)

Whether Bernard is being tied to chair and tortured, or Nadia is stylishly dispatching assailants with high kicks or fisticuffs – Citadel gets hampered by a lack of nuance. As coincidences stack up and the signposting of plot points becomes embarrassing, this purpose-built product washes over its audience.

However, with the pedigree of Joe and Anthony Russo onboard, people will go in expecting more opportunities for emotional investment. After all, these executive producers were responsible for directing both Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, which are still considered high water marks in the MCU and remain unchallenged creatively by anything Marvel have done since.

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Unfortunately, this foray into original programming with Prime Video shows none of the nuance for which they are renowned — leaning into archetype, stereotype, and simplistic storylines. It's an approach which not only diminishes the project, but makes the entire endeavour feel driven by something other than artistic intentions.

Mason Kane (Richard Madden) and Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) in Citadel. (Prime Video)
Mason Kane (Richard Madden) and Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) in Citadel. (Prime Video)

That being said, there is rarely a false moment amongst the principal performers, as they navigate their way through this convoluted set up. Richard Madden is in full machismo mode as Mason Kane, while Priyanka Chopra-Jonas burns up the screen as Nadia Sinh. Proving adept at delivering some pithy one-liners, amongst the guns and ammo artillery fest which Citadel sometimes embraces too much.

Outside of the central trio, highlights include Lesley Manville as Dahlia, who proves to be suitably cold blooded yet demure. Whereas Roland Moller takes on the dual role of brothers effortlessly, aided and abetted by some seamless visual effects.

What other critics thought of Citadel

Digital Spy: This rip-roaring romp is promising (4 min read)

Evening Standard: Resistance is futile, just enjoy the ride (3 min read)

The Wrap: Spy thriller franchise-starter fails to launch (5 min read)

Total Film: All the makings of an enjoyable spy drama (4 min read)

With all that style and an intentional lack of substance to back it up, Citadel should be a lot more fun despite the lack of originality. However, some audiences will be unable to forgive the mediocrity on screen, irrespective of the effort from those involved.

It's a fact which will disappoint some and infuriate others, who hoped Citadel might be more than just another slice of Prime Video hokum.

Citadel is available to stream on Prime Video from 28 April.