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How The Russo Brothers Used Their Clout To Get Mosul Made - Exclusive

Since Anthony and Joe Russo are responsible for two of the five highest-grossing films of all time at the worldwide box office with Avengers: Endgame (No. 1 at nearly $2.8 billion) and Avengers: Infinity War (No. 5 at $2 billion), it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that the filmmaking brothers can pretty much have their pick of projects.

What might surprise you, however, is that instead of giving into the temptation of studios that are hoping to bring the dynamic filmmaking duo aboard to either direct or produce the next big superhero franchise, the Russos instead are throwing their weight behind films that might not get made otherwise. Most recently it's the new war drama Mosul, the compelling true-life story of a SWAT team made up of Iraqi policemen who band together to rid their city of the ravages of ISIS.

Writer-director Matthew Michael Carnahan pitched the idea to the Russos after he read of the harrowing accounts of the Nineveh SWAT Team in Luke Mogelson's 2016 New Yorker article, "The Desperate Battle to Destroy ISIS." Not only did the Russos say yes to producing the film, the filmmakers took things a step further by ensuring the authenticity of the story — an approach you don't get every day in mainstream movies. As Carnahan recalled to Looper in our exclusive interview, the Russos insisted they "shoot [Mosul] in Arabic in that part of the world with a cast from that part of the world."

Telling a story about real-life superheroes

On its face, Mosul has the sort of action that you would associate with any of the Russos' superhero films. However, the superheroes in this case happen to be real people facing dire circumstances, and any one of them could lose their life at any minute.

"I think [the Russos liked the] idea of doing the most justice possible to this SWAT team and the lives that they were forced to lead, and doing it in as close to their mother tongue as we could get with a cast from that part of the world — some of whom had lived versions of those events, similar events," Carnahan says. "That, I think, put the hooks in them, like Mogelson's article put its hooks in me."

Mosul stars Iraqi-born actor Suhail Dabbach as Major Jasem, the leader of the SWAT Team, who, like his fellow members, has suffered devastating personal losses at the hands of ISIS. Dabbach tells Looper that word of the film has resonated deeply with his countrymen — and they are completely grateful to the Russos and Carnahan for taking on the story.

"I have had a lot of people sending me messages on Facebook, on social media, and there are a lot of them from the army," Dabbach says. "There's an officer who said, 'Thank you so much for you and for the director, for the producers to do this movie, to show us our real story, that we have it come to life. To approve it for the people who all get to share their story with the audience.'"

Mosul debuts on Netflix November 26.