Gabriela Cowperthwaite, dir.
Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo, Tim Lovestedt & Jordan Roberts, script
Starring: Kate Mara (Megan Leavey), Edie Falco (Jackie Leavey), Common (Gunnery Sgt. Massey), Ramon Rodriquez (Cpl. Matt Morales), Will Patton (Jim)
There have been hundreds of films about dogs but how many have been about canines who are bomb sniffers? In this sense—and this sense only—the new girl and a dog film Megan Leavey treads new ground.
Rex, the real life dog who sought out bombs with U.S. Marine Corporal Leavey in two military deployments in Iraq, had also bonded with his first handler Sgt. Mike Dowling, who wrote a book entitled Sergeant Rex after he left the Marines. Clearly, Rex was a remarkable dog—two of his handlers loved him—and he did have an amazing ability to sniff out IEDs (improvised explosive devices).
Kate Mara convincingly plays Megan Leavey in the film as a bleak young woman, who has no beliefs and motivation—just anger at her mother for divorcing her Dad and marrying his former best friend. While her emotions are reasonable, living with the mom and “stepfather” while working at dead end jobs is not. Joining the Marines and meeting Rex seem to have been the high points of her life. Returning to the U.S. after her two tours of duty, Leavey still seems to lack motivation. Apart from moving in with her Dad instead of her mother, and deciding to get Rex to retire from the military and spend his last days with her, Megan Leavey appears to be a cipher, still trying to find some meaning in her life.
Megan Leavey comes alive when the apathetic young woman is trained in Marine Boot Camp, meets and bonds with Rex and fights in Iraq. Kate Mara is able to show some spirit—presumably the same as her real-life counterpart—when she is playing Leavey dealing with inherently dramatic situations. Apart from those scenes and the final third of the film when Leavey campaigns to get Rex back to her, this film is curiously lifeless. What are we to make of Megan Leavey, the person and the film? I suppose we’re pleased she got her dog but will she find a civilian life worth leading? And, apart from dog lovers, should anyone else bother to see the movie? I think not.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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