The movie “Megan Leavey” sidesteps emotional connection between human and K9.
Feeling more like a Hallmark made-for-television movie than a Hollywood big-screen production, “Megan Leavey” offers up a real-life Marine heroine and her military working dog that was injured in 2006 Afghanistan. This latest war narrative examines the personal growth of the young Corporal Leavey, who enlists into the Marine Corps to escape several relationships, only to find one special rapport with a four-legged dog named Rex.
“Megan Leavey” is a heart-warming and, at times, gut-wrenching true story. Unfortunately, the best parts of the movie are presented far too quickly to be fully effective. While portions of Leavey’s family past are rightfully mentioned, it comes with the very steep price of losing further emotional connection between the dog handler, her partner and the theater audience.
Megan’s interaction with her mother (Edie Falco from HBO’s “The Sopranos”) and step-father (Will Patton) although important, never matures enough to be of a higher value to the overall film. The bland script also dampens the girl’s special bond with her father (played by this year’s “Get Out” star Bradley Whitford). Despite a proven all-around cast led by “House of Cards” TV standout and Emmy Award-nominated Kate Mara, “Megan Leavey” never taps into the film’s several strengths long enough to truly impact viewers.
Easily, the best performance of the movie belongs to the German Shepherd “Rex.” His K9 bomb-sniffing training and bonding experience with Leavey leading up to Iraq is fascinating and suspenseful to watch. The other, lesser relationships, explored between the corporal and her family and a budding boyfriend, take away from the critical job shared by this military working dog team.
The film illustrates the dangers posed to our military forces deployed overseas and the importance dogs have played in our nation’s wars for more than 200 years. It reminded me of my last combat tour to Afghanistan over the latter part of 2010 and into 2011. Attending a senior leadership meeting at a U.S. base that November, we were notified that a military working dog at an Army outpost had developed a life-threatening sickness (non-combat related).
Aircrews, intelligence briefers, operations planners, and ground support all moved with the same urgency to save this K9 as we had done countless times before for a human soldier, sailor, airman or Marine. Immediately an air package consisting of A-10, F-15 and drone aircraft gave top-cover for a pair of HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters that carried Pedro combat medics through a heavily occupied valley of enemy Taliban fighters. At the same time, a giant C-17 aeromedical jet on standby was generated to airlift the dog across the country to the finest U.S. veterinary hospital available. That’s the respect K9 warriors are given within our U.S. military. I only wish “Megan Leavey” had delved deeper into that special bond—and at more times—throughout the film.