Kate Mara, Bradley Whitford, Ramon Rodriguez, Tom Felton
Annie Mumolo, Pamela Gray, Tim Lovestedt
Bleecker Street Media
Megan Leavey is the kind of film that separates film critics from those film journalists who genuinely embrace the power of film to change the world. Featuring one of Kate Mara's most satisfying performances to date, Megan Leavey recently picked up Heartland Film's Truly Moving Picture Award, an award recognizing the film's celebration of the human spirit and the way in which its lead character rises above gender stereotypes and powerfully illustrates her truly heroic actions.
Based upon a true story, Megan Leavey tells the story of a young marine corporal (Kate Mara) who forms a unique and disciplined bond with a military combat dog. Together, the two successfully complete over 100 missions until an IED explosion in Iraq injures them leading to their forced separation. Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, responsible for the remarkable documentary feature Blackfish, Megan Leavey is at its best in the film's latter half when Megan becomes obsessed with reuniting with Rex and, despite advice to the contrary, adopting him after his combat days are over.
There's no denying that there are times when Megan Leavey clunks along, strangely enough most often when Megan Leavey focuses more on its human relationships than it does on woman's best friend. Working from a script by Annie Mumolo, Pamela Gray and Tim Lovestedt, Cowperthwaite constructs a more traditional motion picture than one might expect from the same director who gave us the controversial and remarkably bold Blackfish. Meagan Leavey, while rated PG-13, is more Disneyified than it is Hurt Locker, an approach that may hurt the authenticity a bit but also allows the appealing story to reach a wider audience. While military scenes are to be found in Megan Leavey, including the obligatory explosion that we all know is coming, the film is focused squarely on Megan's relationship with Rex and, to a much lesser degree, the broken relationships she left behind and the relationships she finds along the way that help her start to find a better direction.
While tasked with playing an underdeveloped character, Edie Falco has some solid scenes as Megan's dead-end mother and Common, in particular, makes a positive impact as Gunny Martin, whose command of the K9 unit helps Megan detour away from the disciplinary path where her military career was headed. As Morales, the obligatory love interest, Ramon Rodriguez does what he can but there's never any denying that Megan loves Rex a whole lot more than anyone else in the film.
Megan Leavey isn't a brilliant film, but it's an effective and efficient film that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do by putting on full display an aspect of the military not often seen on the big screen and telling a true and remarkable story along the way. Megan Leavey is a feel good film, but not in the cloying and annoying Hallmark Channel kind of way. The inspiration in Megan Leavey is earned and if you're able to leave your jaded, cynical self at the door you'll most assuredly leave the theater feeling much better than when you entered.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic