Mosul like many other modern war dramas coming out in the 21st century is set in the Middle East. Yet, there is something very peculiar about it — There are NO American Soldiers in it. It isn’t about war or ending the war, but more about protecting/cleaning the country, where an outlaw police unit fights to liberate their city from thousands of ISIS militants.
Written and directed by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Mosul follows the combat between Nineveh Squad (an elite police unit) and ISIS (also known as Daesh). The second-largest city of Iraq, Mosul has been turned into rubble by the militants and the Nineveh Squad fight against them each and every day just to end the terror and bring peace to their land. Both the Nineveh Squad and Militants are the countrymen of the same nation yet their ideologies are different, which is highlighted in the film itself. The film is based on true events and adapted from a New Yorker article.
Kawa, a 20-year-old newly recruited Iraqi police officer finds himself in the middle of an attack by the Daesh militants. Losing all hope, Kawa believes his end is near when he is saved by an anti-terrorist squad, the Nineveh Squad commanded by Major Jasem.
Major Jasem not only saves Kawa but also offers him to be a part of his perishing squad. Jasem offers Kawa the position as he believes Kawa who had lost his uncle in combat, will get a chance to avenge his loved one. Kawa, who is sceptical at first, agrees to be a part of the team. Though Kawa’s admission doesn’t go well with Jasem’s team members, who doubt that Kawa might be an informer of Daesh.
Through Kawa, the narrative moves forward as Jasem shows him the wrecked city of Mosul. Kawa is unsure of why he is fighting Daesh and creating more chaos. Until the end, Kawa is trying to understand the motives of the Nineveh Squad and what makes them different from the Daesh militants, because the groups are just firing bullets and creating a bloodbath. Kawa argues that they can also arrest the enemy members, rather than killing them, but when he finally learns the motive behind such an act, he identifies the real purpose of the war between the Nineveh Squad and Militants.
Jasem – A Ray of Hope
Mosul could be like any other war film set in the middle east. But a single character of Jasem separates it from the crowd.
Through Kawa, we learn about Jasem, who is the most humane character in the squad, and the most experienced. It was Jasem who decided to make Nineveh Squad an outlaw group that isn’t corrupted by politics. Jasem wants to clean the city. He wants to save the citizens and start afresh. He is the epitome of what an ideal police officer could be. Though it isn’t just Jasem’s ideals but also his hope that makes him vibrant.
In my most favorite scene of Mosul, Jasem stops the Humvee in the middle of the road, just to attend to two small boys, standing near the dead body of their mother. The crying boys are waiting for their father, while Jasem knows, he won’t come. Jasem comforts the kids and asks them to come with him saying, “Don’t worry. We can rebuild everything. We just have to kill them all first.” Jasem can sense that these boys will turn into militants too and thus they should be given to a family, where they can learn and evolve. Jasem is the apt example of a necessary light in between the black clouds that are hovering over Iraq.
Jasem’s actions run in confluence to his influential words. When Jasem visits the camp of an Iranian commander in Iraq, he unconsciously picks up the crushed water bottles and other rags. While nothing is textually said about his gesture, I believe it brilliantly supports Jasem’s idea of who wants to clean his land. Thus, even his actions support his words, which makes his character even stronger.
Like there is no existence of a country without its countrymen, Jasem’s character is the lifeline of Mosul. It is impossible to talk about the film without putting light on Jasem.
NO Americans Please
In one of the heavy combat scenes, when Jasem and his few left men need heavy artillery and support, a soldier in Jasem’s squad suggests taking help from the Americans. Jasem says, “they flatten everything because they don’t have to rebuild anything.”
The phrase is hard-hitting and deep because it is what America or Russia or any other country that has stepped on foreign land to assist them in war, has actually ever done to that land. They come, fight, spoil and leave. They are the guests who won’t even have the courtesy to do the dishes after dinner. Thus, Jasem understands that now Iraq and Iraqis have to fight themselves. These countries are just shopping carts who come to a foreign land to sell their guns, in the name of democracy.
Only if there would be other good men like Jasem, the world would be at a better place.
Some Wars are Unavoidable
Kawa is looking for the answers till the end. He is trying to separate the motives and actions of the Nineveh Squad and the Daesh militants. In the end, he finally learns that all the soldiers of the Nineveh Squad were former police officers while the militants were mostly common criminals who joined Daesh. These police officers had earlier arrested these criminals but when they joined Daesh, they started killing the family members of the Nineveh Squad. Thus to save their families Major Jasem, initiated the mission and saved their families. Nineveh Squad wasn’t formed to fight, but to save what’s left.
Major Jasem’s own ideals changed from arresting the criminals to killing them, but he has his reasons.
Mosul is one of those few war films that stays with you for a longer time. Not due to some marvelous action sequence but because it inflicts an emotion that is hard to ignore and even harder to forget. Each and every line from Major Jasem penetrate your thought process and shake it to the core. It is both an influential and important film, yet it doesn’t lose its entertainment value. It engages you with all its heart, which is the most beautiful thing about a piece of art. There is no forgery, just pure emotions.
Mosul is streaming on Netflix.
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