Friday, June 9, 2017

Megan Leavey

Based on the true story of US Marine Corporal Megan Leavey and her four-legged partner Rex who served two deployments in Iraq finding hidden explosive devices and insurgent weapons, Kate Mara stars as a lost young woman who finds purpose as a K9 handler. With the potential pitfalls of being both an uplifting military tale and a movie about a woman and her dog, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and screenwriters Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo, and Tim Lovestedt do a fair bit of work to not let things get too schmaltzy over the film's 116-minute running time (although at certain times in the film this becomes a losing battle).

As someone who doesn't mind a little schmaltz, as long as it serves the story (and it certainly does here), Megan Leavey delivers an engaging tale. Kate Mara may not be the typical idea of a Marine, but Leavey's story is hardly typical and the casting works. While she and the dog are the true stand-outs here, a grizzled Bradley Whitford (who it took me a moment to recognize) steals a scene or two as Megan's father. Harry Potter's Tom Felton also has a small role as a fellow dog handler. Less effective are the one-note performances of Edie Falco and Will Patton as Megan's mother and her boyfriend.

In linear fashion, the film follows Megan's life from pre-enlistment to meeting and working with Rex and her struggle after leaving the military and repeated attempts to adopt the dog that, in more than one way, saved her life. To make the story work the film has to make the Marine doctor against Rex's adoption almost cartoonish in her villainy, which feels a bit off and done nearly entirely for dramatic effect. Thankfully the script allows Megan's commanding officer (Common) to present a more nuanced perspective of the potential hazards of allowing a military dog into civilian life. With so much story the film does have to pick and choose what to show. I would have preferred a bit more of Megan's time in Iraq and/or her struggle to adopt Rex as the split focus is asking quite a lot of the movie's limited running time. Even with these minor quibbles, Megan Leavey still delivers a solid film which the whole family can enjoy.

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