I was unfamiliar with the story of corporal Megan Leavey and many others may not be so I was interested in the story but most will probably watch it because of the relationship between Leavey and her dog Rex which is fine too.
Synopsis: Based on the true life story of a young marine corporal Megan Leavey whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq. When she is assigned to clean up the K9 unit after a disciplinary hearing, Leavey identifies with a particularly aggressive dog, Rex, and is given the chance to train him. Over the course of their service, Megan and Rex completed more than 100 missions until an IED explosion injures them, putting their fate in jeopardy. (Elevation Pictures)
Starring: Kate Mara, Ramon Rodriguez, and Tom Felton
Writers: Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo, and Tim Lovestedt
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Running Time: 116mins
Films based on true stories such as that of Megan Leavey (Mara) follow a similar mould in terms of storytelling and this film was no different, not straying from that mould. Leavey was lost and in search of purpose after a personal tragedy. Her search led her to the marines and then eventually became a dog handler. She believed that she had truly found her purpose so she fought hard for what she believed. The story was told in three acts with this being the first act with the film getting better during the last two acts spanning her time in Iraq and then when she fought to get her dog back.
Each act almost felt like different films but the balance between each of them could have been better. Although they should have been there for longer than they were, the best act was the middle act when she was in Iraq. She had proven herself to this point, however, this was still an adjustment for the male-dominated military. There wasn’t as much drama from that point on, meeting a friend in Corporal Matt Morales (Rodriguez). Over her time there, Leavey and Morales became closer as Leavey did her job and gained the trust of her fellow soldiers until her time was tragically cut short when an IUD took her out of commission permanently, separating her from her dog Rex.
The film veered back into familiar territory during an emotional final act. Leavey and Rex had become very close over their time together so losing him was tough for her as she became lost once again without him. After her experience in Iraq, she had become a celebrity so she had to adjust to this while returning to civilian life, however, she just couldn’t leave Rex behind. She had her moments and looked visibly shaken from her experience. The problem for her was that the dogs belonged to the military who saw them more as tools then dogs so they still needed him to work. It wasn’t easy but because of her sheer persistence, she was able to convince the military to let her adopt Rex so he can live the rest of his life with her after he retired from duty.
The best part of the film had to be Kate Mara’s performance as Leavy since she was so likable and compelling to watch, it helped to slightly overcome the unoriginal elements of the story. The highs and lows of Leavey’s evolution as a character was great to watch thanks to her emotional performance. She played a large part of the film but it also featured Edie Falco and Bradley Whitford who were good in supporting roles as Leavey’s parents Jackie and Bob.
Overall, this was a good war drama based on a true story that many people may not have heard of. It perhaps depended a little too much on familiar biographical tropes but was executed better than most and was elevated by Kate Mara’s lead performance.
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