Review: Megan Leavey

Kate Mara in Megan Leavey

Megan Leavey is based on the true story of a female Marine and her bomb-sniffing dog Rex. It is in theaters now and available on Amazon Video.

Kate Mara stars as Marine Corporal Megan Leavey. In the first part of the film, Megan aimlessly drifts through her life. To escape from her mother (Edie Falco) and stepfather (Will Patton), she impulsively joins the Marines.

Kate Mara is a tiny woman. It strained credibility to believe she made it through boot camp, but the real Megan Leavey did, and that’s who the story is about.

As a PFC, Megan was a screw up. She was assigned to clean the dog kennels as a punishment. When she first met the dog Rex, he scared the living daylights out of her.

Working around the dogs made her resolve to become a dog handler. She went to Gunny Martin (Common) to find out what was required. She would have to be a top notch Marine to work with the dogs. So Megan became a top notch Marine.

When Rex bit his handler and broke his hand, Megan Leavey was assigned to Rex. I was surprised they didn’t put the dog down after that, but they did not. Even the veterinarian (Geraldine James) was afraid of Rex and wouldn’t be around him if he wasn’t muzzled.

Megan was determined to train Rex. They bonded completely in training. Later Megan said that Rex taught her the meaning of love.

They were deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan where Rex performed admirably. They found many explosives and saved many lives. Then both of them were injured in an explosion. Megan was separated from Rex when she went to the hospital.

Megan did not reenlist. This was in 2006. She asked to adopt Rex, because she believed his injuries kept him from peak performance. The vet ruled him unadoptable because she thought he was vicious. Megan left the Marines. Rex, however, was sent back to Afghanistan for more service.

The remainder of the film was about Megan’s efforts to adopt Rex. Megan also worked to process her war experiences. She had nightmares and PTSD. She attended a support group for help. She moved out of her mom’s and lived with her Dad (Bradley Whitford) during this time.

She made endless phone calls inquiring about Rex. She organized a publicity campaign, circulated a petition, and she paid a visit to her Senator from New York state. He agreed to help.

Because both Megan and Rex were war heroes, the publicity helped. When Rex came home again, Megan was allowed to adopt him. He lived with her until his death in 2012.

There were some battle scenes in the middle part of the film, but the basic story was about a woman and her relationship with a dog. Megan was portrayed as someone who didn’t relate well to people. There was a brief romance with one of the other dog handlers, played by Ramon Rodriguez, but Megan was often alone. She talked freely to Rex but not so well with her family.

Megan Leavey is about persistence and determination. It’s about bravery. It’s about finding your calling. At the end of the film there were some updates about Rex and about how Megan now works with dogs for the state of New York and in her beloved Yankee Stadium.

Megan Leavey in Megan Leavey
Megan Leavey herself had a small part in the film as a drill instructor.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite directed Megan Leavey. The writers were Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo, and Tim Lovestedt.

The film was touching and inspiring. It is definitely worth seeing. I found it a little uneven, especially the war scenes. I also had a problem with the sound being too loud or too soft at various moments.

The cast was filled with terrific actors who did an excellent job. Despite her tiny stature Kate Mara conveyed the emotional core of the story of the Marine and her canine coworker. The dog (or dogs) who played Rex also gave believable performances. German Shepherds are so smart!

To learn more about Megan Leavey and Rex, check out this interview with CBS New York or this article from the Daily News.

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