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Movie Review: “Megan Leavey”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 6/9/2017

Theatrical Release: 6/9/2017

Synopsis

Megan Leavey (Kate Mara) is a troubled young adult who decides to join the United States military. Once enlisted, Megan gets herself into more trouble and she is tasked with cleaning the dog kennels. She quickly forms a bond with one of the dogs, named Rex, and she 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 the area, putting his life on the line everyday in order to keep soldiers 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 now 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 he 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 save her old friend, like he once did for her.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Megan (+4pts)

Unjustified PTSD (-4pts)

Kate Mara (+8pts)

Slow (-4pts)

Rex (+5pts)

Focus (-6pts)

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Pro: Megan (+4pts)

I enjoyed exploring this character and her issues. She did not have the best relationship with her parents, and she joined the military in an effort to escape her life. I thought the character's motivation for enlisting, made her an interesting character, and it made it so pretty satisfying to see her bond with Rex. The character felt like she was all alone in the world, so it was easy to get behind her desperation to adopt her Rex, the one friend she had.

Megan’s story got pretty tragic at times, but it was interesting to see unfold. The character went on a roller coaster of emotions throughout this movie. Her happier moments were with Rex, but she had her share of lows and depression. This was a drama through and through, and while there was not much excitement, it was still a fairly compelling character story about a loner and her companion.

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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 have endured pretty much the same thing, only to brush the incident off like a minor inconvenience. I understand that Megan Leavey was not the hero of an action movie, but we have seen plenty of realistic characters like Megan brush off incidents just like this. Thus, while I totally understand that someone in the real world would likely have PTSD from this incident, I did not buy it in the context of this movie.

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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 overly impressed by any of her performances. To be fair, I have never thought she was “bad”, but her performances have never really blown me away. With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised by her performance in this movie. Megan was a character that felt isolated right from the beginning of the story. She then found happiness in Rex, but she lost everything after a tragic incident in the field.

In other words, the character then went on an emotional rollercoaster, and I thought Kate Mara did a great job at bringing the audience along for that ride. This was a purely dramatic character, with a complex view of the world, and a complicated relationship with her parents. Her issues made her bond with Rex powerful, and in order for the audience to feel that, they had to buy all of the character’s complexity. The actress in the role needed to bring their A-game, and I thought Kate Mara did just that.

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Con: Slow (-4pts)

The movie had a decent groove right up until the bomb went off. After that, the story slowed way down, so much so, that it became kind of boring for a little while. We watched Megan coming to terms with what happened, which we the audience had wrapped our heads around pretty quickly, so it just did not make for an interesting section of the story. Where did Megan go when she left the military? What was her relationship like with her parents after she got back? These were questions that no one wanted answered—I certainly did not—but the filmmakers gave us plenty of time to see all of this play out. It slowed the movie down, bored the audience, and took time away from the story’s more interesting aspects—like, you know, Megan and Rex.

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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 will know when he is sad, and you will 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 worked really well. Megan was lost, both mentally and emotionally, in the beginning of the story. Rex ended up embodying her happiness in a way that will land 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, and I thought it did.

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Con: Focus (-6pts)

Focus was definitely a problem for this movie. I already touched on it, but the movie slowed way down after the bomb went off, and I believe the focus—or lack thereof—was the main reason why this happened. This movie needed to be one of two things. It either needed to be a military story, or a dog and owner story. This movie could have easily had elements of both, but I think the movie would have been better served if one of these had been given the spotlight.

What ended up happening was 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 was all about Megan and Rex, with the military aspect taking the back burner. This transition was what slowed down the pacing of the movie, and by feeling somewhat like two separate movies, the climax of the movie was less impactful than it would have been if the filmmakers had focused on building one storyline from beginning to end.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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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, while combined with the the heart-warming tone of a dog and owner story. Unfortunately, the filmmakers failed to find a balance between these two aspects of the story. This resulted in a slow second act, and a climax that did not have the impact that it deserved.

Megan was a character with an interesting story, and her connection with Rex was a joy to watch whenever the two were on screen together. The dog who played Rex actually managed to bring personality to the role, and Kate Mara gave a performance that hooked me. I connected with the character of Megan, because of what Kate Mara was able to do with the character’s complexity, and it carried my interest in the character through the end of the movie. At the end of the day, the movie still had its problems. It was far from being a bad movie, but it was not exactly good.

Comments

Sam Shepards from Europe on January 01, 2019:

Nice review liked the first 3/4 of the movie.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on December 30, 2018:

It sounds like an interesting film, I wouldn't mind watching this. I like the sound of the storyline.

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