Megan Leavey pulls at your heartstrings in two directions; it’s both a heroic war film and a dog film. Oh, and it’s also based on a true story. While those three things normally can be associated with your stereotypical sappy Lifetime movie, Megan Leavey delivers a surprisingly grounded and emotionally connected story that brings out the best of Kate Mara. It’s a film you can’t help but enjoy.
After the death of her boyfriend, Megan (Kate Mara) has little going for her at home and disregards everything and everyone. On a whim she decides to join the Marines, although despite her best efforts she still struggles to connect with anyone. It’s only when she joins the military’s K9 unit and is paired with Rex, one of the unit’s most ferocious yet skilled bomb sniffing dogs, that she learns what true love and friendship is. It’s a bond that goes well beyond the line of duty.
Kate Mara delivers one of the best performances of her career as Megan Leavey. She’s a damaged woman who joins the military thinking it will solve all her problems. And while it does teach her how to get along with others through Rex, it’s not some quick fix that magically heals her completely. It is war, after all. Mara is able to brilliantly portray the complexity of Leavey as she deals with the spoils of war. Furthermore, the film continues to explore the hardships soldiers deal with upon returning to civilian life. The film isn’t your typical war story nor is it your typical heartwarming dog story. It’s its own wonderful mix of the two.
What I like about Megan Leavey is that it doesn’t treat Rex as a prop like most animal films do. It’s easy to fall in love and connect with Rex, despite his aggressive demeanor. Like Megan, you learn to love him over the course of the film. He’s constantly by her side and while out on the battlefield the two are nearly inseparable as they go through everything, good and bad, together. As they say in the film, “he’s not just a dog; he’s a soldier.”
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Megan Leavey. It connects on all emotional levels and delivers a strong story about love, war, friendship, and loss without taking the easy route with stereotypical and cliche characters. Kate Mara is absolutely phenomenal. It’s a film that can be absolutely heartwarming one minute and gut-wrenching the next. This is one you definitely don’t want to miss.