Mosul movie review: Suhail Dabbach as Major Jasem and Adam Bessa as Kawa, in a still from the new Netflix film.(JOSE HARO/NETFLIX)
Mosul movie review: Suhail Dabbach as Major Jasem and Adam Bessa as Kawa, in a still from the new Netflix film.(JOSE HARO/NETFLIX)

Mosul movie review: Russo brothers’ brutal action film is a worthy follow-up to Endgame and Extraction

Mosul movie review: It might come across as inadequate American compensation for having invaded an entire country, but the new war film, produced by the Russo brothers, is more than that.
By Rohan Naahar | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON NOV 30, 2020 08:46 PM IST

Mosul
Director - Matthew Michael Carnahan
Cast - Suhail Dabbach, Adam Bessa, Is’haq Elias

Mosul, a new war movie co-produced by the Russo brothers, is bookended by two terrific scenes. This isn’t to say that the rest of the film is in any way underwhelming, but the sheer confidence with which debutant director Matthew Michael Carnahan handles the opening and closing moments of his movie, set in the twilight of ISIS’ hold over the titular Iraqi city, is exciting — especially since he is working in a genre that thrives on tropes.

The immediacy with which we’re thrust into the action almost makes it seem as if Netflix’s da-dum has melded into the sound of gunfire. Two men are cornered behind a wooden desk, fielding assault from all sides. There are dead bodies strewn about. It looks like they’re inside what used to be a shop, but it’s difficult to tell. An apocalypse appears to have been unleashed outside.

Watch the Mosul trailer here

 

Just as the men — their uniforms suggest that they’re cops — are about to run out of ammo, we close in on them. Their faces confirm what we’re thinking. It’s over. But then, there’s a rapid burst of fire outside — quick, clinical — followed by a deathly silence. The men catch their breath, and with hesitant looks at each other, they peek over the desk behind which they’ve been hiding.

The enemy is dead, taken care of by group of heavily armed soldiers. They’re the legendary Nineveh SWAT team. The two cops have heard stories about this elite squad, whispered among the Iraqi people almost like fables about marauders of the past. After a brief interaction in which he lauds their bravery, the commander, Major Jasem, appoints the younger cop as the newest member of the SWAT team. He will be our surrogate in this brutal world.

His name is Kawa, and he has a lot to learn. For instance, he still believes in making arrests, an idea that Major Jasem puts an immediate end to. There will be no arrests as long as he’s in charge. Every last member of ISIS they come across must die — mercilessly, painfully, and preferably, without remorse.

Mosul unfolds across no more than 24 hours, as the Nineveh SWAT team trudges through the war-torn city to carry out a rogue mission. It’s structured almost like a video game, with several side quests -- including an ‘escort mission’ -- peppered throughout the narrative. This is in no way meant as a criticism. It’s simply a lean way to tell a story, a technique that the Russos previously employed in Extraction as well.

But unlike that film, Mosul isn’t all wall-to-wall action. Carnahan, the veteran screenwriter behind films such as The Kingdom, World War Z and Deepwater Horizon, pauses the pulse-pounding violence for moments of surreal absurdity. In one scene, Major Jasem exchanges cartons of cigarettes for much-needed ammunition. In another, the SWAT team takes refuge in an abandoned apartment and recharges on reruns of a Kuwaiti soap opera.

Like clockwork, these scenes are punctuated by sudden violence. There’s a repetitive quality to the story, which, despite the film’s relatively short runtime, begins to feel slightly tedious after a point. And although no character is sacred, they’re also difficult to tell apart from one another. Besides Kawa, our surrogate, and Major Jasem, only a couple of other members of the team register. Incidentally, this is a dead giveaway for who gets to live.

Suhail Dabbach as Major Jasem, Thaer Al-Shayei as Hooka and Adam Bessa as Kawa, in a still from Mosul. (JOSE HARO/NETFLIX)
Suhail Dabbach as Major Jasem, Thaer Al-Shayei as Hooka and Adam Bessa as Kawa, in a still from Mosul. (JOSE HARO/NETFLIX)

But despite the thin plot, Carnahan manages to instil humanity in these men with nifty screenwriting techniques. As Kawa’s innocence erodes before our eyes, Major Jasem’s tragic past is revealed, bit by bit. He’s a magnetic character, performed idiosyncratically by Suhail Dabbach. Jasem has a habit of picking up trash and binning it, even though Mosul looks like a place Mad Max could comfortably call home.

Also read: Extraction review: Breakneck and bonkers, Chris Hemsworth’s Netflix film is the shot of adrenaline we need right now

Kudos to production designer Philip Ivey, who also worked on the Lord of the Rings movies, for transforming Morocco into the war-ravaged Mosul. There’s visible green screen work, especially in a rooftop action sequence, but by and large, the Hollywood sheen is downplayed in favour of a rugged brutality. It helps that, rather boldly, Carnahan has elected to make the movie in Arabic. We never see this in American productions. And while Mosul might come across as inadequate American compensation for having invaded an entire country, it’s more than that.

Francois Truffaut famously declared that all war movies end up being pro-war. But there’s something to be said about the manner in which Mosul ends — understated, staunchly humanist — that defies Truffaut’s sweeping (and rather outdated) generalisation.

Follow @htshowbiz for more
The author tweets @RohanNaahar

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Priyanka Chopra and Adarsh Gourav in The White Tiger.
Priyanka Chopra and Adarsh Gourav in The White Tiger.

Priyanka Chopra drops Divine's banging original song from White Tiger. Listen

PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 09:02 PM IST
  • Priyanka Chopra has shared Jungle Mantra, an original song from the White Tiger soundtrack, by Divine, featuring Vince Staples and Pusha T. Listen here.
Close
Ray Fisher played Cyborg in Justice League.
Ray Fisher played Cyborg in Justice League.

Ray Fisher confirms he's been removed from Flash movie, amid standoff with WB

UPDATED ON JAN 15, 2021 04:04 PM IST
  • Actor Ray Fisher has released a lengthy statement confirming his removal from the upcoming Flash movie, amid his standoff with Warner Bros.
Close
Riz Ahmed has talked about his wife for the first time.
Riz Ahmed has talked about his wife for the first time.

Riz Ahmed reveals his 'secret' wedding details along with wife's name

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 03:35 PM IST
Riz Ahmed has talked about his wife for the first time, how they got married during the pandemic and more.
Close
Chris Evans played Captain America in multiple MCU movies.
Chris Evans played Captain America in multiple MCU movies.

Chris Evans denies being in talks with Marvel to return as Captain America

PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 11:16 AM IST
As per fresh reports, Chris Evans is reportedly in talks to return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Captain America. The actor, however, has denied the rumours.
Close
Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Chambers have two kids together.
Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Chambers have two kids together.

Armie Hammer breaks silence on DMs scandal, says he's quit his upcoming film

PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 09:29 PM IST
  • Actor Armie Hammer announced that he is quitting his upcoming film, amid a scandal around messages that he allegedly sent a woman.
Close
Patralekhaa reminisced about Rajkummar Rao's journey from Gurugram to New York.
Patralekhaa reminisced about Rajkummar Rao's journey from Gurugram to New York.

Patralekhaa spots The White Tiger hoarding in NYC, gives shout-out to Rajkummar

PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 07:57 PM IST
  • Patralekhaa spotted Rajkummar Rao on a hoarding of The White Tiger in New York and shared a picture on Instagram stories. She reminisced about his incredible journey, from Gurugram to New York.
Close
One Night in Miami movie review: Debutante director Regina King assembles an astonishingly excellent cast.
One Night in Miami movie review: Debutante director Regina King assembles an astonishingly excellent cast.

One Night in Miami review: Blistering film traps four Black icons in motel room

UPDATED ON JAN 14, 2021 07:51 PM IST
  • One Night in Miami movie review: Debutante director Regina King extracts terrific performances from her four leading men, in a high-concept drama about power and responsibility.
Close
Bruce Willis visited a pharmacy in Los Angeles on Monday but did not wear a mask.
Bruce Willis visited a pharmacy in Los Angeles on Monday but did not wear a mask.

Bruce Willis regrets ‘error in judgment’ after refusing to wear a mask in public

PUBLISHED ON JAN 13, 2021 01:58 PM IST
  • Bruce Willis was clicked without a mask at a pharmacy in Los Angeles on Monday. He later said that it was an 'error in judgment'.
Close
Nick Jonas has given a big thumbs up to Priyanka Chopra's latest film, The White Tiger.
Nick Jonas has given a big thumbs up to Priyanka Chopra's latest film, The White Tiger.

Nick Jonas reviews Priyanka Chopra's The White Tiger, calls it 'unreal'

PUBLISHED ON JAN 13, 2021 09:43 AM IST
Singer Nick Jonas is all praise for Netflix's upcoming film, The White Tiger. The film stars Nick's wife, actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas in a supporting role.
Close
Dave Bautista in a still from Army of the Dead, Leonardo DiCaprio in a still from Don't Look Up, and Chris Hemsworth in a still from Escape from the Spiderhead.
Dave Bautista in a still from Army of the Dead, Leonardo DiCaprio in a still from Don't Look Up, and Chris Hemsworth in a still from Escape from the Spiderhead.

Netflix unveils star-studded 2021 slate, featuring DiCaprio, The Rock, Hemsworth

UPDATED ON JAN 12, 2021 08:31 PM IST
  • First footage from high-profile upcoming films starring Chris Hemsworth, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dwayne Johnson, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Adams, and others, has been revealed by Netflix.
Close
Actor Robert Downey Jr. (L) and Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios at the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War.(REUTERS)
Actor Robert Downey Jr. (L) and Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios at the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War.(REUTERS)

Kevin Feige exclusive interview: Marvel boss on India's role in MCU's future

By Rohan Naahar
UPDATED ON JAN 12, 2021 06:35 PM IST
  • In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Marvel Studios president, Kevin Feige, spoke about India's role in the future of the MCU, and the mind-bending WandaVision, the studio's first streaming series.
Close
Neetu Chandra is set to play Jaya, a fighter in Never Back Down: Revolt.(Instagram)
Neetu Chandra is set to play Jaya, a fighter in Never Back Down: Revolt.(Instagram)

Neetu Chandra debuts in Hollywood: 'The Never Back Down role was written for me'

PUBLISHED ON JAN 12, 2021 02:41 PM IST
Neetu Chandra is all set to make her Hollywood debut with the next instalment of action franchise, Never Back Down: Revolt.
Close
Pieces of a Woman movie review: Shia LaBeouf as Sean and Vanessa Kirby as Martha, in a still from the new Netflix film, executive produced by Martin Scorsese.(Netflix)
Pieces of a Woman movie review: Shia LaBeouf as Sean and Vanessa Kirby as Martha, in a still from the new Netflix film, executive produced by Martin Scorsese.(Netflix)

Pieces of a Woman movie review: Simply brilliant, if you can get over Shia LaBeouf’s problematic presence

By Rohan Naahar | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 07:16 PM IST
Pieces of a Woman movie review: Look beyond Shia LaBeouf’s problematic presence, and the film has a lot to admire -- especially Vanessa Kirby’s astonishing central performance.
Close
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Pedro Pascal: The rise of a star

By Rohan Naahar | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 08, 2021 07:28 PM IST
From the New York theatre to Game of Thrones and Wonder Woman 1984, the actor has honed his craft, owned his choices and emerged a winner.
Close
A protestor raising the Confederate flag inside the Capitol.
A protestor raising the Confederate flag inside the Capitol.

US Capitol violence: Bollywood and Hollywood in shock, Chris Evans, Swara Bhasker, Richa Chadha call out police inaction

By HT Entertainment Desk | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 07, 2021 01:05 PM IST
Multiple Bollywood and Hollywood stars have reacted to the storming of the US Capitol that happened on Wednesday. Chris Evans called out the unfairly lenient police reaction while Sacha Baron Cohen asked social media giants to block President Trump.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP