Thursday, June 15, 2017

Movie Review: "Megan Leavey" (2017)

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

Tired of her life, Megan Leavey joins the U.S. Marines. There, she becomes the handler of a dog named Rex, who sniffs out explosives. Once her tour of duty is over, a new fight begins: Megan wants to be able to adopt her one-time partner and war hero for the remainder of his life, but the Marines push back harder than she could have ever imagined.

"Megan Leavey" is based on the true life story of U.S. Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey. It is directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who up until now has only directed documentaries, including the (in)famous "Blackfish." It stars Kate Mara, who takes on the titular role of Cpl. Leavey. The movie covers Leavey's life from 2001, just prior to her enlistment, through her boot camp training and her tour of duty, to a few years after the end of her service. Joining Mara are Bradley Whitford as her father, Eddie Falco as her mother, Will Patton as her stepdad, Common as her gunnery sergeant Martin, Ramon Rodriguez as fellow soldier and dog handler Matt Morales, and Tom Felton as Andrew Dean.

We knew next to nothing of "Megan Leavey" going into the film. We hadn't seen a single trailer for it and knew very little of Leavey herself. On the outside, it may look like a typical war picture, but really, it is more about one woman's personal journey and her bond with an animal she never expected to love. We wound up really enjoying this film, especially as dog lovers. We watch Megan go from being a troubled young woman who hails from a broken home to a full-on soldier in mind, body, and spirit. As the movie rolls along, eventually, we see the negative, traumatic effects war can have on a person, and even the impact it has on Rex. We watch Megan deal with moderate to severe PTSD. Even the most basic things that are common annoyances to civilians, like a car alarm going off in the night, take her right back into the thick of battle in Iraq. Finally, we see her fight an uphill battle to adopt Rex, her loyal savior and wartime hero, after being without him consumes her with unimaginable grief.

Kate Mara gives an excellent performance, one of the better ones we've seen from her. She is able to believably express Megan's mental, emotional, and physical journey through this period in her life and all of the trials and tribulations that come with it. There are many moments where we got choked up, especially when characters discuss the bond humans have with their dogs and vice versa. We thought we would be fine and were coasting along its run time without any tears, and then, Common had to go and talk about how humans may consider their dogs family members, but we often forget, they feel the same way about us. BigJ and I looked at each other with the same tear-filled expression on our faces: "dammit Common, why'd you have to go and say that?!" Speaking of Common, he has definitely gotten better as an actor over the years, and we really enjoyed his performance here as well.

"Megan Leavey" is not just emotionally spot on, but there is also a great level of tension we did not expect. There are some extremely intense moments, especially in the middle section of the film when Megan and Rex are on deployment. As Rex sniffs around for bombs in enemy territory, there is a lot of nail biting and even a few moments of edge-of-your-seat thrills because, at any moment, something could go boom right in front of them. It's like "The Hurt Locker," if Jeremy Renner were a dog. This leads us to the one major critique of the film. It does slow down a bit in the third act as Megan leaves the military and resumes her normal life as a civilian. We have a hunch that if the middle part hadn't been so explosive, the latter portion probably wouldn't have felt so slow.

In the end, we are pleasantly surprised by "Megan Leavey" and found it to be emotional, intense, and dramatic in all the right places, mostly engaging, not overly political, and very well acted.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

No comments:

Post a Comment