I knew that Mosul is one of those war movies that’s going to fuck me up. From the moment I saw it, every new piece of information that I read was proving this is going to be a masterpiece. The only things that I didn’t know were the quality of the visuals and action. However, it became crystal clear after the first couple of seconds they are phenomenal. And so it begins.
Right from the ferocious opening sequence, Mosul grips you and it doesn’t let go until it’s over, some ninety minutes later. Ninety minutes that you will spend with your eyes firmly fixed on the screen, without taking any breaks or looking at your phone. The action is unrelenting, gritty, and uncompromising. Every aspect of this movie is simply stellar, from production values over acting to the atmosphere. Above all, this is a hauntingly authentic movie that stays true to its source material.
Mosul is based on a “The Desperate Battles to Destroy Isis” article written by Luke Mogelson. The article reads more like a book, with a lot of pictures and first-hand reporting. I highly recommend you check it out. However, only after you’ve seen the movie. Mostly because you would want to avoid any spoilers. Plus once you’ve seen the movie and met the crew, reading about the real guys will be a whole other experience. At this point, I should mention that this movie is only inspired by that article.
As you might have guessed, the movie takes place in the devastated city of Mosul, Iraq where we follow a unit of battle-hardened veterans fighting the good fight. The story is unfolding in real-time, making the movie even more intense. The danger lurks from any corner and you simply know this isn’t one of those movies where everyone is going to make it. The script is full of these little details and exchanges that feel natural and realistic. Everything about it seems carefully crafted and made with special attention and care.
Movies with the army theme have always been a special genre. I will skip all the movies that came before Saving Private Ryan, as they symbolized the coming of a new breed of a war movie. Something that was made obvious just a couple of years later with the release of Black Hawk Down. Since then and especially in recent years, we have seen a lot of similar movies. They are entertaining and visually stunning, focusing on action and character-driven stories.
Perhaps the best example is Lone Survivor, released in 2013. What followed is a series of similar movies like 13 Hours, 12 Strong, The Siege of Jadotville, and The Outpost. I intentionally didn’t mention epics like Hacksaw Ridge, Dunkirk, or 1917 as they are simply too big. The only war movie I can think of that successfully avoided this is Anthropoid, a true masterpiece. Back to my point, I feel that these movies somehow make war and armed combat cool and personality-defining. Like something that you might want to experience. Not that these are bad movies, it’s just this thing was always in the back of my head.
I don’t know how they pulled it off but Mosul is not that type of movie and yet it features incredibly exciting and intense shootouts. It doesn’t feel exploitative and it does a terrific job of showing just how horrible war is. It also offers a different perspective from all these movies, telling a story that simply needs to be told. Again I will refer you to the original article that will elaborate on this much better than I ever could. Matthew Michael Carnahan made one hell of a debut, although we kind of knew he had it in him. After all, he wrote The Kingdom, Deepwater Horizon, and phenomenal Dark Waters. While he’s at it, he could take a look at all-female units fighting Isis in Iraq like Women’s Protection Units.
There are several scenes that stayed with me long after the movie was over along with this sense of profound sadness and grief. Grief for all the suffering and lives lost in this horrible war. Those scenes punctuate so well all the insanity and pain of it, especially the one with the brothers or the sniper one. Iraqi people have been through hell and are still standing. I hope that there’s a better future for them as they continue to recover. Judging by these brave, honest and honorable men we will get to know here, I’m sure of it.
You will not hear the English language here, as all of the dialogue is in Arabic. This adds another layer of authenticity to the atmosphere, although I’m sure that some of the quality will be lost in translation. An atmosphere that is ominous and unsettling, showing you just glimpses of the sheer terror that went on in this city. The shootouts were hectic, gripping, and above all realistic. I already mentioned impressive visuals, rivaling any big Hollywood blockbusters enhanced by saturated color palette and great cinematography. To top that off, the acting was simply stellar, with Suhail Dabbach and Adam Bessa stealing the show.
Finally, I agree with some of the reviewers saying that there was enough material here to make a miniseries at the very least. The story is compressed not to the point of breaking but pretty damn close. I wanted to know more about these characters and to properly get to know them as they all seem like they have a story to tell. However, what’s done is done and what’s done is fucking amazing. So, I don’t want to bother you anymore with praises, just go and see this movie, even if you don’t like this subgenre I think it conveys a message that needs to be heard. And if you need something to unwind after this one, check out Extraction produced by the same crew. Also I simply cannot help myself recommending The Nile Hilton Incident, a gritty murder mystery set against the backdrop of Egyptian revolution of 2011.
Director: Matthew Michael Carnahan
Writer: Matthew Michael Carnahan
Cast: Suhail Dabbach, Adam Bessa, Suhail Dabbach, Thaer Al-Shayei, Mohimen Mahbuba, Is’haq Elias, Waleed Elgadi
Fun Facts: It’s the first ever Netflix movie featuring an Arabic language with an Iraqi dialect.
IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9252468/