Don’t watch this movie without a fresh box of Kleenex. When I left the theater after watching Megan Leavey, every woman at the screening piled into the bathroom to fix their makeup because they were crying so much. That should tell you what to expect with this title. Megan Leavey is a based on the true-life story of a young Marine played by Kate Mara, whose long career of fuckups has led her to her last chance in the Marine Corps cleaning out dog turds from cages. After getting close to the most aggressive dog in Camp Pendleton named Rex, Megan for the first time in her life learns discipline and love with her combat dog. After a trip to Iraq, which saw them blown up by an IED, Megan wants to leave the Marines, but the Military wants to keep Rex for more missions. With nothing going on in her life worth fighting for, Megan focuses all of her energy to adopting Rex herself, but that battle turns out to be tougher than any battle she faced in the Middle East.
Kate Mara has taken a lot of heat for her choice of roles and the box office success associated with them, however, I can safely say that this is the best performance of her career as a Small Town New Yorker struggling to overcome one personal tragedy after another. Common is also in the film but his acting isn’t as good. You can tell he’s really trying, but the problem is you can tell he’s really trying. There are many fragments of the story. Megan is portrayed as a screw up who’s only joy in life comes from the New York Yankees, then she bonds with her service dog during training, they complete some missions in Iraq, and then she struggles with the legal battle of regaining their relationship.
Outside of a few details about Megan’s life before her enlistment, the film plays it straightforward and pretty accurate to the life story. The film is at its most tense when they reenact missions in the middle east of sniffing out bombs in hostile territory. The real Megan Leavey even confirms that the only reason the blast from an IED didn’t kill them both is that the bomb was buried too deep and the ground absorbed the blast. The anxiety of these scenes are not only attention-grabbing but gives you a greater appreciation of the risks our servicemen take every day.
The pacing is the biggest issue here overall. Because of this, the tone doesn’t flow as well as it should at times. The ending loses some points as well because what was a very good character study turns into a Hallmark movie with the level of cheese squeezed into it. All in all, Megan Leavey is a deeply emotional love story between a woman and her dog which does romance better than many other wooden actors in 2017.