'Mosul' offers intimate look at Iraqi Special Forces

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By Kevin McDonough

War movies don't appeal to everyone. But they often include action scenes, harrowing tales of combat, intimate scenes of brothers in arms and touching moments of civilians saved by brave men putting their lives on the line.

The "Frontline" (10 p.m., PBS, check local listings) film "Mosul" includes all those elements and more.

With less than a 40-minute running time, "Mosul" is eligible for this year's Documentary Short Subject Academy Awards.

"Mosul" follows four young soldiers from the Iraqi Special Forces as they engage in the nine-month street battle to drive ISIS from the large northern city. Director Olivier Sarbil uses handheld digital cameras and smartphones to offer startling intimacy and a gruesome, close-up look at machine gunners and snipers in action as they battle from street to street and house to house. Some military experts have described the battle for Mosul as the deadliest urban combat since World War II.

Like most war movies, "Mosul" is about the men and the bonds they form as they fight, sleep, eat, survive, grieve and mourn together under horrific conditions.

We meet Anmar, the leader, out to avenge his father's murder; Jamal, the wise-cracking jokester; Amjad, the sensitive soul often on the phone with his pregnant wife. There's also Hussein, the sniper whose bravado often betrays the psychic cost of prolonged combat. "For the ISIS guys I kill, I feel very happy I killed them," Hussein declares. "It's fun. It's not like a war, but a wedding party." His words say one thing, but his 10-mile stare reveals a very wounded soul.

• As I expected, last week's debut of "Dynasty" was a bit of a ratings dud. More surprising was the fact that the audience for "Riverdale" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) increased from last season.

In many ways, "Dynasty" is the worst of both worlds. It sticks fairly close to the original story, which was shocking in 1981, but over-familiar now. At the same time, it makes references to contemporary figures and events.

In contrast, "Riverdale" seems to take place in a twilight zone that's neither contemporary nor period. Veronica (Camila Mendes) may talk and act like a very 21st century teen, following a blood-splattered Archie (KJ Apa) into the shower (more psycho than sexy), but many of the sets and decor seem taken from another era. Archie drives a vintage pickup to check his dad (Luke Perry) into a hospital right out of the 1940s.

I think viewers enjoy the timelessness of "Riverdale" and reject "Dynasty" and its stabs at modernity. Who wants to be reminded of a world dominated by Kardashians and Trumps?

• Just in time for Halloween, Hulu streams the second season of "Freakish."

TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

• Cookie welcomes competition on "Empire" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

CMT Artists of the Year 2017 (8 p.m.) honors country musicians.

• Never say die on "SEAL Team" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14). This series has been renewed for a second season.

• A neighborhood's code of silence hampers an investigation on "Chicago PD" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

• A border clash on "Designated Survivor" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

SERIES NOTES

"Survivor" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) * In the Red on "The Blacklist" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14) * The new Beverly on "The Goldbergs" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) * Under the stars on "Speechless" (8:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) * A bullied victim vanishes on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14) * Daddy's home on "Star" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14) * Jay's old pal on "Modern Family" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) * Matthew's death reeks of conspiracy on "Dynasty" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14) * Cooties on "American Housewife" (9:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) * Death by drone on "Criminal Minds" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

CULT CHOICE

Actress Romy Schneider portrays Austria's Empress Elisabeth in the popular Austrian 1955 biography "Sissi" (8 p.m., TCM), followed by "Sissi: The Young Empress" (10 p.m.) and "Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress" (midnight) released in 1956 and '57. The 1962 film "Forever My Love" (2 a.m.) condensed the "Sissi" trilogy into one movie.

LATE NIGHT

Conor McGregor, James Van Der Beek and Dan St. Germain are booked on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS, r) * Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Caitriona Balfe and the National on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS, r) * Jimmy Fallon welcomes Ben Stiller, Fred Armisen, Little Big Town, Kacey Musgraves and Midland on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC, r) * Emma Stone, Kaitlin Olson and Blondie visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC, r) * Mindy Kaling, Olivia Munn and Fifth Harmony appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).

© 2017, United Feature Syndicate