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The Russo Brothers' Terminally Slick 'Citadel' Runs on Eye Candy

By Alison Lanier | TV | April 28, 2023 |

By Alison Lanier | TV | April 28, 2023 |


The Russo Brothers’ new spy-tastic venture at Amazon Prime is everything you’d expect from that description. It is star-studded, very cool, and, most of all, so visually stylized and precise and full of lens flares that my libra heart was happy but my eyes were tired. Overall, though, it’s a good time, a tropey crowd-pleaser that doesn’t demand too much of its audience and manages to run only mostly on eye candy.

In a softly near-future, Citadel follows two top agents of the titular global espionage force for good, Nadia Sinh (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) and Mason Kane (Richard Madden), two unbelievably beautiful superspies with a complicated romantic history (of course). Their tech-genius, man-in-the-chair, Bernard Orlick (the ineffable Stanley Tucci) co-stars as an ironical M-meets-Q in the 007 tradition. Naturally, Citadel is taken down in a simultaneous mass attack by the rival evil spy organization, Manticore, a private group funded by the wealthiest families in the world in order to continue to hoard wealth. Sinh and Kane both survive but have their memories wiped. Cue the time jump!

Eight years later, both Sinh and Kane are reactivated, the last hopes in the face of the global “endgame” planned by Manticore. Will they save the day against all odds? And who betrayed Citadel to Manticore all those years ago? Will they regain their memories, and will Kane have to rethink his idyllic suburban life with his beautiful wife Abby (Ashleigh Cummings) and daughter Hendrix (Caoilinn Spingall).

The cast is rounded out by Roland Møller playing two baddy assassin brothers, Leslie Manville as the nefarious Manticore broker Dahlia Archer, and Mira Kelly as Orlick’s happily and emphatically ex-wife.

It’s pretty spot-on spy media—fast-paced, engaging, and generally good TV. For all its beauty and slick execution, there isn’t a ton of substance to it. It’s a well-tooled, decently acted action flick broken into six indulgent episodes of lavish settings and elaborate violence. It’s spy media that is so trope typical it even gets a bit of (intentional) comedy out of it. It takes itself not quite so seriously, lightening the mood mostly via Kane’s amnesiac snafus and Tucci’s dry wit.

Its twists are telegraphed and satisfyingly heavy-handed, and its costume tailoring is pristine. Overall, it’s fine, 100% more in the legacy of Bond than le Carré. Turn your brain off and open a beer, basically.

Nobody is shooting for the stars here, just frequently for each other. And honestly, I had fun with it. Sometimes you just need a good spy caper. Prestige TV it may be, but pretentious it is not. Amazon threw its money into genre yet again, and they got the worldbuilding and polish to match. Can I say it’s … good? Eh. Fun? Definitely. Pretty? Hell yeah.

Oh, and it cost $300 million to make. I’ll be crying into my rent check over here.

The first two episodes are now streaming on Amazon Prime, with new episodes dropping weekly.