Movie Review: “Megan Leavey”
Megan Leavey (Kate Mara) is a troubled young adult that decides to join the United States military. Once enlisted, Megan gets herself into more trouble and is tasked with cleaning the dog kennels. She quickly forms a bond with one of the dogs, named Rex, and does everything she can to become Rex’s handler. While the dogs can form bonds with their handlers, they are far from pets. Rex’s responsibility is to scout the area ahead of a patrol and locate any bombs, in order to keep the patrol safe.
Megan and Rex work very well together, and they form a one-of-a-kind bond. Unfortunately, their luck runs out when they fail to detect a bomb that ends up severely injuring Megan. Megan is removed from active duty, due to her injuries, but Rex remains a valued member of the military. She must find a way to live without Rex, but when Rex’s career reaches its end, Megan looks to adopt him. Unfortunately, Rex is a trained military dog and is not ideal for civilian life, so the likelihood of the adoption being approved is very slim, but that will not stop Megan from trying to give her old friend a home.
The Pros & Cons
Unjustified PTSD (-4pts)
Kate Mara (+8pts)
Pro: Megan (+4pts)
I enjoyed exploring this character and her issues. She does not have the best relationship with her parents, and joins the military in an effort to escape her life. I thought the character's motivation for enlisting, made her an interesting character but made it so much more satisfying when Megan bonded with Rex. The character feels like she has no one else in her lifs, so it was easy to get behind her desperation to adopt her buddy.
Megan’s story gets pretty tragic at times, but was interesting to see unfold. Most audiences will sympathize with her right from the beginning and will relate to her desire to escape her current life. She finds happiness when she meets Rex, but her story takes a tragic turn when she is injured on the battlefield. The character goes on a roller coaster of emotions throughout this movie and, while the pacing was not perfect, it was a fairly compelling character story to watch.
Con: Unjustified PTSD (-4pts)
One area of the film that I thought needed work, was Megan’s injury and her road to recovery. She suffered a tragic event, but I did not feel like the incident justified the amount of PTSD that Megan suffered from it. The problem was that we have seen characters in other movies who endure the same thing, yet brush the incident off as a minor inconvenience. I understand that Megan Leavey is not the hero of an action movie, but we have seen realistic characters (like Megan) brush off incidents like this.
I also acknowledge that I have never served in the military, so I have certainly never seen action like Megan Leavey has. However, most audiences are in the same boat as I am (in the sense that they have never served in the military). The filmmakers needed to make her PTSD believable to all audiences, and I personally believe that they failed to do so. Her character went through some trauma, and I bought that she needed time to recover, but the level of her PTSD felt over-dramatized.
Pro: Kate Mara (+8pts)
I have seen Kate Mara in plenty of movies and television series before, and I can safely say that I have never been impressed by her performances. To be fair, I have never thought she was a “bad” actress, but her performances have always seemed very average. Her performances have always been fine, but they have never really stood out to me. It always felt like she was a solid actress that accomplished exactly what she needed to, but not much more. With all of that being said, I was pleasantly surprised by her performance in Megan Leavey.
Megan is a character that feels isolated right from the beginning of the movie. Then she finds happiness in her dog, but loses everything after a tragic incident in the field. The character goes on a rollercoaster of emotions, and Kate Mara does a great job of bringing the audience along for that ride. She is able to, very naturally, hit all of the ups and downs of this character’s story in a way that audiences will connect with. This was, without a doubt, a great performance from Kate Mara.
Con: Slow (-4pts)
The movie has a decent groove right up until the bomb goes off. After that, the story slows way down. It slows down so much, that the movie honestly becomes boring for a little while. We watch Megan coming to terms with what happened, and it just does not make for an interesting section of the story.
Where does Megan go when she leaves the military? What is her relationship like with her parents after she gets back? These are questions that no one wants answered (I certainly did not), but we get plenty of time to see all of this play out. It slows the movie down, bores the audience, and takes time away from the story’s more interesting aspects.
Pro: Rex (+5pts)
I went into this movie expecting the dog to be little more than a prop for the cast to act alongside. Much to my surprise, Rex actually had quite a bit of personality. As a viewer, you know when this dog is happy, you know when he is sad, and you know when he is angry. It may not seem like much, but it added an important layer to the movie.
In addition to the dog’s personality, the character of Rex works really well in this movie. Megan is lost (mentally and emotionally) in the beginning of the story. Rex ends up embodying her happiness in a way that lands with every pet owner in the audience. I really got a sense that Megan and Rex loved each other. This was an incredibly important part of this story and it was incredibly important that this got accross to the audience, which I think it did.
Con: Focus (-6pts)
Focus was definitely a problem for this movie. I already touched on it, but the movie slows way down after the bomb went off, and I believe the focus (or lack there of) by the filmmakers was the major reason why. This movie needed to be one of two things. It needed to be a military story, or a dog and owner story. The story could easily have had elements of both, but the filmmakers definitely needed to give one of these the spotlight.
What ended up happening is that the first half of the movie focused on the military aspect of the story, with Rex taking the back burner. Then the bomb went off, and the movie transitioned into something else. After the transition, the movie is all about Megan and Rex, with the military aspect taking the back burner. One problem with this is that the transition is what slowed down the pacing of the movie. The other problem is that it feels like two movies, which diminishes the impact of the story’s climax.
Grade: C+ (78pts)
Megan Leavey had an interesting premise. It was a military story with the twist of also being about Megan and her bond with Rex. It seemed like a movie that would have the heavy drama of a military story, combined with the the heart-warming tone of a dog story. Unfortunately, the filmmakers failed to find a balance between these two aspects. This results in a slow second act, and a climax that did not have the impact that it deserved.
Megan was a character with a very interesting story, and her connection with Rex was a joy to watch, while the movie focused on the two characters. The dog who played Rex gave a lot of personality to Rex, and Kate Mara gave a performance that really impressed me. I connected with the character of Megan, because of what Kate Mara was able to do, and this may have been the best performance I have seen from the actress. At the end of the day, the movie has its share of pros and cons. It was far from a bad movie, but it was not exactly good.