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Megan Leavey – Movie Review

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Megan Leavey – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

Stories about owners and their dogs is a common one on film. After all, that connection elicits an easy emotional response from the audience. Megan Leavey focuses on the true story of a corporal who forms a bond with a dog, while serving in Iraq. The real events might have been unique enough to get a film greenlit, but the way director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and the three credited screenwriters tell it, it’s fairly standard and not a tale that exactly calls for the cinematic experience. This is a competently made film and Kate Mara gives a solid lead performance, but it never rises above a typical television movie of the week.

As soon as Megan comes across the hostile dog Rex, it’s immediate these two will form a connection of some kind. The screenplay doesn’t attempt to erase any potential clichés that might arise, but in terms of showing how they grow with each other, it succeeds admirably enough. A lot of credit goes to Kate Mara. She never turns Megan into a caricature, even when she finds herself drinking into the late hours. Mara is an actress who brings a certain naturalness to whatever role she plays. Even when a scene requires tears or anger, she never overacts and that’s appreciative. The friendship she develops with Rex is a believable one.

Little of the action surprisingly takes place in Iraq. There’s one notable scene on the field, but most of the character development happens at home. The film primarily shows the meeting and bonding with Rex, then trying to adopt him afterwards. The desperation is felt, but nothing presented here feels out of the ordinary and one assumes this sort of ordeal happens with a lot of soldiers who want to keep their military dogs. There is little inherently cinematic about how the tale is presented here by the filmmakers. The stakes never feel particularly high and there’s always a sense things will work out in the end, whether one knows the true outcome or not.

The script feels the need to throw a love story into the mix, but it feels unnecessary in a film where Megan shares far more chemistry with the dog than with her boyfriend. Her mother is written in a rather broad way, but Mara does share some nice scenes with Bradley Whitford as Megan’s father. Whitford is unfortunately underused here and is mostly used to motivate Megan to win Rex back and get her life on track again. While Megan Leavey does not approach Homeward Bound levels of emotion, dog owners and lovers will probably still find scenes to get slightly teary over.

It is surprising Megan Leavey is getting a theatrical release, as the entire project feels like the sort of film that pops up on Netflix and television. While Megan Leavey’s growing love for Rex probably had cinematic potential, it has been whittled down to a standard film not all that different from other dog-owner connection stories. One wonders what merited the biopic treatment. This is an inoffensive piece of fluff, but the scenes between Megan and the dog are sweet and Kate Mara gives a capable performance in the titular role. This movie just needed a bit more meat on its bones.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison