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Review | 'Citadel' collapses like a pack of cards


Published on: April 28, 2023 | Updated on: April 28, 2023

Citadel' is an amateurish series devoid of any imagination and novelty. (Photo: By arrangement)

"The thing about myths is that at the end of the day, they are just stories," says one of the characters in the opening sequence of ‘Citadel’, a spy thriller touted to be the second most expensive offering from Amazon.

Stories are what audiences want. Stories are what enthral you and me. Everything else is secondary.

While this global series can tom-tom about who’s who from the world of entertainment as its cast, what it falters at is the core which it should have got right. The story - the fulcrum on which this entire edifice is built collapses like a pack of cards right from frame one.

We can rightly go gaga over our desi girl bagging a meaty role in an international production but once the euphoria settles down what we are left with is an extremely average product that suffers heavily from a feeling of deja vu.

The writing is so pathetic that it can make ‘Pathan’ script look like a strong contender for the Nobel for Literature.

Truth be said. Priyanka Chopra is leading a project which is exactly the kind she was running away from doing in Bollywood.

‘Citadel’ is an amateurish series devoid of any imagination and novelty. It borrows heavily from the multitude of espionage thrillers that have been made before this.

It starts with an almost 15 minutes long action sequence, as we have in Bond movies generally, in which the two globe-trotting protagonists and the central plot are introduced. Nadia (Priyanka Chopra) and Mason (Richard Madden of ‘Game of Thrones' fame) are spies working for an organisation called Citadel. They are on a mission to eliminate Manticore, who is a threat to the world. Wow! This plot is so ingenious. I wonder how come the writers of ‘Bourne’ or ‘Bond’ series or ilk which are dime a dozen on streamers nowadays didn’t think of it. After the action sequence, in which the lead pair is ridiculously speaking in multiple foreign languages, Manticore outshines Citadel and our spies lose their memory. It is exactly at this point audiences feel that amnesia seems like a blessing that eludes them.

Next, the story cuts to eight years later when Nadia and Mason are living an entirely different life, completely oblivious of their identity as spies. Their handler, Bernard (Stanley Tucci, impressive) hunts them down and readies them again to take on Manticore. Things don’t get more mundane and predictable than this.

Director Newton Thomas Sigel, and writers Josh Appelbaum, Bryan Oh, and David Weil have made ‘Citadel’ look like the malnourished remakes of Bond movies in Bollywood of yore generally headlined by the likes of Jeetendra or Vinod Khanna.

It’s high time makers understood that gadgets and special effects are mere tools to drive home your story point better. They are not the story. Locales and costumes do not and cannot substitute a good screenplay.  

The only person who stands to benefit the most from ‘Citadel’ is Priyanka Chopra. This series definitely puts her in the league of top sought-after actors in Hollywood. She does a decent job as Nadia and displays the potential to play a Bond girl or even Bond someday. Kudos to her.

For now, the streamer has released two episodes and four more are to follow. If the intention to not release all episodes in one go was to woo the viewers, it will now prove to be counterproductive. In fact, we should be happy that only two episodes are out and we can take that as a warning signal to stay away from the remaining ones.

But what makes me shudder is that the series is likely to have local spin-offs. Backstop like erasing the memory is desperately needed in that case.

Series: Citadel
OTT: Prime Video
Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Richard Madden
Director: Newton Thomas Sigel