Mosul, a recent war movie co-produced by the Russian brothers, is filled with two beautiful scenes. This is not to suggest that the rest of the film is in any way underwhelming. Still, the sheer faith with which debutant director Matthew Michael Carnahan manages the opening and closing moments of his film, set in the twilight of ISIS’s hold of Iraq’s capital city, is exciting—mainly because he works in a genre that thrives on tropes.
The immediacy in which we are plunged into motion almost makes it feel as if the da-dum of Netflix has melded with the sound of gunshots. Two men are cornered behind a wooden bench, attacking from both angles. Dead bodies are lying about. It looks like they’re inside what used to be a supermarket, but it’s hard to say. It seems like an apocalypse has been unleashed outside.
When the men—their badges indicate that they’re cops—are about to run out of ammonia, we’re near them. Their looks confirm what we’re worried about. It’s over now. Then, there’s an explosion of fire—quick, clinical—followed by a deadly silence. The men catch their breath, and they glance at each other hesitantly, staring over the desk they’ve been sitting behind.
The enemy is buried, cared for by a squad of heavily armed troops. It’s the legendary SWAT squad of Nineveh. The two cops heard tales about this elite squad, whispering to the Iraqi people much like the marauders in the past. After a short exchange in which he praised their courage, Major Jasem named the younger officer the newest member of the SWAT squad. He is going to be our proxy in this harsh world.
His name is Kawa, and he’s got a lot to remember. For, e.g., he still believes in arrests, an idea that Major Jasem is bringing an imminent stop to them. No arrests will take place as long as he is in power. The last member of ISIS they come across must die—unfortunately, painfully, and hopefully, without guilt.