Wednesday 14 June 2017

Movie Review: Megan Leavey (2017)

A dog-meets-girl drama, Megan Leavey is a deeply personal story stretched well beyond its limits.

Megan (Kate Mara) is a young woman from rural New York, depressed after the death of her best friend. She enlists in the Marines, and during training stumbles onto the K9 dog unit under the command of Gunnery Sergeant Massey (Common). She forms a bond with military combat dog Rex, a strong-willed German shepherd.

After training Megan and Rex are deployed to Iraq, where Rex's bomb-sniffing capabilities save lives. Megan also meets and develops a relationship with fellow dog handler Matt Morales (Ramón Rodríguez). Both Megan and Rex are injured in the line of duty, and after returning to civilian life Megan sets out on a mission to rescue her dog.

Based on a true story and directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Megan Leavey is an earnest enough tale of friendship between two outcasts. It is also a deeply personal and fairly small drama, more appropriate as a television movie-of-the-week than on the big screen. Despite the best efforts of Cowperthwaite, a game Kate Mara, one clever dog and a team of three writers, there simply isn't enough content to capture and maintain attention.

The middle third of the film is by far the most powerful. Megan and Rex are deployed to Iraq, where Megan starts out alone but slowly wins the respect of her fellow Marines. The in-field scenes are excellent and capture high levels of tension as Megan guides Rex towards sniffing out improvised explosive devices in a hostile environment.

Unfortunately, the film starts slowly and the opening act at the Marine training camp is routine in the extreme. And the final third, with Megan back in the civilian world and desperate to reunite with Rex, is endlessly mopey. There is only so much resonant emotion that can be squeezed out of one woman's quest to find her dog, and Megan Leavey chews the idea to shreds.

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