First Hit: I was fully engaged emotionally with this film and maybe it's because I have a dog and we're close.
Megan Leavey’s story is a true one and I appreciated seeing the real Rex and Megan in the final credits.
This story is about a young lost girl who finds love and a path through life by joining the US Marines and becoming a dog handler. Megan (Kate Mara) perfectly portrays a life not worth living. She is in constant dispute with her mother Jackie (Edie Falco) who just seems clueless about her daughter’s life and what she’s hurting from. Megan also hates her job and has recently lost her closest friend.
There’s a great scene in this film that emphasizes the struggle between Jackie and Megan. Jackie is complaining about her former husband Bob (Bradley Whitford) not giving her the $2,000 he owes her, and Megan’s retort points out that Jackie slept with Bob’s best friend Jim (Will Patton) so Megan doesn’t think Bob owns her mother anything.
Early on she drinks herself out of a job she hates, and drinking gets her in trouble in the Marines as well when she gets caught peeing next to the base provost’s home. Making wrong decisions are her trademark, but this latter one gets her duty cleaning up the kennel. And with most detrimental things in life, there are opportunities as well and Megan suddenly realizes she wants to be a dog handler.
The film takes us through the process and gives the audience a clear picture of how unique these dogs and their handlers are. After Megan meets Rex (her German Shepard), she begins to open up and feels caring and love towards something for the first time in a long time. There are wonderful touching realistic moments that are nicely captured.
Although these dog teams are not well loved by other ground troops and the enemy really dislikes them, they provide a valuable service and when they discover hidden explosives they are beloved.
The movie follows Megan to Iraq where she and Rex are assigned missions. Rex performs perfectly and bravely because Megan performs in the same way, they are connected. They are a team and become inseparable. However, after they both receive injuries, the expectation is that Megan will not re-enlist and Rex will be retired. She wants to adopt Rex but a very unmindful Marine Vet says Rex is unadoptable.
With Megan’s heart broken, she starts to slip away into her previous “I give up” life. However, her dad gives her a talk that highlights her strength and what she learned by being a Marine.
Mara is fantastic. I really felt her despair early in the film and later when Rex was re-assigned to another handler. I also bought her growth as she found strength to tackle the issues or challenges in front of her. Falco was strong has her mother who seemed clueless as to her own behavior and actions towards her daughter. The café scene when she asks about who gets how much money if she happens to die in Iraq was priceless and perfect. Whitford was wonderful as her quiet unassuming father. Common as Gunnery Martin was really good and he’s shown that he's become a strong actor. Ramon Rodriguez as fellow handler Matt Morales was wonderful. I loved his lightheartedness and open caring for both his animal and Megan. Pamela Gray and Annie Mumolo wrote a sensitive and strong screenplay. Gabriela Cowperthwaite did a great job of presenting this emotional strong story.
Overall: I cried numerous times during this film, which told me it worked.