Susan Granger’s review of “Megan Leavey” (Bleecker Street)
While “Wonder Woman” celebrates a fantasy hero, “Megan Leavey” reveals the true story of a real woman, a Marine in combat, and the bomb-sniffing German Shepherd who becomes her constant companion.
Growing up in suburban Valley Cottage, New York, Megan Leavey (Kate Mara), admittedly, doesn’t connect with people very well, nor does Rex, the large, aggressive, allegedly uncontrollable Military Working Dog dog with whom she’s paired in Marine K-9 training at Camp Pendleton.
They soon become inseparable and, when they’re deployed to Iraq, their bond is forged even deeper. After more than 100 missions from 2003 to 2006, Megan is wounded by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and sent home, leaving Rex behind with a series of different handlers.
Suffering from PTSD, stoic Megan descends into a deep depression, much to the annoyance of her ne’er-do-well, divorced mother Kathy (Edie Falco). And it isn’t until her empathetic father Bob (Bradley Whitford) questions what would make Megan’s life worth living, that she realizes that the answer is Rex.
So Megan launches her own four-year quest to adopt Rex when he’s injured and duly retired after his military service, battling a stubborn veterinarian who deems Rex “too ferocious” and, publicly, enlisting help from New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (Andrew Masset).
The uplifting screenplay is sensitively crafted by Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo and Tim Lovestedt and deftly directed as a docudrama by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (“Blackfish,” the SeaWorld expose), who elicits nuanced performances not only from Kate Mara but also Common, as Megan’s no-nonsense sergeant, and Ramon Rodriguez, as her romantic interest.
Kudos also to cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore and editor Peter McNulty, whose restrained depiction Megan and her cohorts patrolling the desert war zones of Fallujah and Ramadi seems accurately harrowing.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Megan Leavey” is a subtly satisfying 7, celebrating our soldiers’ canine comrades.