NRI Pulse

Movie Review

Citadel: Techno thriller that promises more than it delivers


Series: Citadel. Streaming on Amazon Prime. Two episodes up; four to come once a week from May 5.
Cast: Richard Madden, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Stanley Tucci.
Created by: Josh Appelbaum, Bryan Oh and David Weil.
Cinematographers: Newton Thomas Sigel and Michael Wood.
Rating: **

A good spy thriller has to have two staple ingredients: a killer concept headed by a credible protagonist and an antagonist. That said, we are all assured that the cinematic value of espionage thrillers will never be lost.

Having offered some of the greatest action movies in cinema history, and giving us convoluted stories, smart plot twists, blasts, flare-ups and umpteen bangs, ideally, a spy thriller packs in so much as to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The American science-fiction television series “Citadel”, created by David Weil for Amazon Prime Video, with the Russo brothers acting as executive producers, and Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas playing “Citadel” agents Mason Kane and Nadia Sinh. With a heavy dose of action, chases and alluring leads, it promises a lot.

The opening sequence has Priyanka in a red dress looking every inch the sexy sassy spy one would hope for. Only this time, she appears far more confident — shall we say, starry? — as she negotiates several inconsistent turns that the scriptwriters have unimaginatively woven into overfilled-with-possibilities expansions.

As of now, only two of the six-part series are available for viewing and an episode every week will follow from May 5 onwards.

If the first two episodes that are streaming now are any indication, the rest of the periodic flow of thrills will include developments in different territories with more action and shifts justifying its universal appeal.

The 15 minutes of Priyanka’s Nadia Sinh and Mason Kane as agents of the global spy agency Citadel set the ball rolling on an innovatively advanced high-tech train. The two have a mission on their hands: to stop a man carrying a bag full of enriched uranium.

Taking orders from a far-off Bernard Orlick (Stanley Tucci) they must get in on the act to stop their adversary Manticore. They succeed, or so it seems. Several fights amid an exchange of several languages later, one learns that Citadel has fallen and its agents’ memories have been wiped clean.

And guess what? Both Mason and Nadia are presumed dead. Some eight years later, the threat of Manticore rising looms large and Citadel agents must be brought back to lead dangerous lives in a surreal world where their life is often on the line.

By the way, all those who will put aside everything else to accommodate this thriller in their schedules, are in for disappointment, for Priyanka gets precisely 15 minutes of fame in the first episode. The rest of it focuses on Mason and his memory getting back to high speed action once again.

If the makers have outdone — or at least tried their best — to outshine Bond’s penchant for long battles with bad guys, there’s something miserably wanting: humour. The smooth and suave Bond taps into whatever everyone desires in life as he is an embodiment of what every man wants to be and what every woman wants in men.

Described as an “action-packed spy series with a compelling emotional centre” and “an expansive and ground-breaking global event comprising a mothership series and several local language satellite series,” the show is neither spectacular, nor rivetingly engaging, save, perhaps, the camerawork zooming across the Italian Alps, India, Spain, and Mexico.

If you are expecting a rollercoaster ride full of bumps and highs, this one isn’t the one for you. Not so far. What we get to enjoy in the subsequent episodes is anybody’s guess.

Priyanka, who seems post “Quantico” to have sharpened the art of keeping herself bravely engaged in all kinds of covert operations, spying, transporting weapons and supplies, and helping people escape while all along adding martial art skills, is in perfect shape.

Mouthing dialogues in husky tones, she has left behind her desi accent that stood out in “Quantico”, the 2015 thriller series, and looks and acts like any other global citizen. Her poise and sureness is for everyone to admire and that alone should pave the way for other Indian female stars to head westwards.

Other than her, everyone else looks eager for more adventurous escapades to keep themselves going.

The series will include developments in different countries and languages. “The Family Man” duo Raj and DK have been signed to do the Indian adaptation featuring Varun Dhawan and Samantha Ruth Prabhu.

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