From director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and Bleeker Street Media is a compelling story that needs to be seen because of “Megan Leavey.”
Megan (Kate Mara) is a young woman staggering through life. Unhappy with her job and unhappy living at home with mom Jackie (Edie Falco) and her boyfriend Jim (Will Patton), it seems the days just blur.
That is, until she makes the decision to hop a bus and join the U.S. Marine Corps. It didn’t take long before Megan was in trouble with the Corps at Camp Pendleton, which has her cleaning the kennels of the K9 unit.
There she meets Rex, a four-legged, anti-social dog who gives trainers a difficult time. Megan continues to ask Gunny Martin (Common) to become part of the K9 unit. When a situation presents itself, Megan and Rex are paired together, and so begins a training of each other to become a strong unit through patience and friendship.
Sent to Camp Ramadi in Iraq, Megan and Rex are on missions to sniff out IEDs, clearing the way for soldiers and the Iraqi people. She meets Matt Morales (Ramon Rodriguez) who is also part of the K9 unit and starts to become comfortable being part of a team.
Then a mission puts both of their lives in danger, changing the path for them both. Megan knows that she cannot continue on her path without Rex and with dad Bob’s (Bradley Whitford) push, she will do anything to get Rex back by her side.
In that is the true meaning of friendship!
Mara as Megan portrays a young woman who clearly has problems dealing with home and family. Making a swift move to join the military, Mara’s character puts up serious walls until she creates an unbreakable bond with Rex. What is amazing, is that feeling this connection and watching the story unfold between Megan and Rex; it is not surprising that they would work together so brilliantly. Mara and Rex are lovely in this film, and the audience fell in love with them both.
Common as Gunny Martin is a man who clearly doesn’t take any guff from anyone — including a pint-sized Megan Leavey. Testing her potential and patiently watching to see if her dedication to the K9 unit is solid, he gives us both the tough gunny as well as a man who understands the hurt of battle.
Rodriguez as Morales is a wise-cracking but dedicated part of the K9 unit in Iraq. He manages to bring down some of Megan’s emotional walls, but it can take the snap of a finger to bring them back up. Patton as Jim is not someone Megan is thrilled to have around, and this is a small role.
Whitford as Megan’s father Bob is a man who realizes the choices he made in his life have affected his daughter. Wanting to reach out and help her, he just isn’t sure how to do it or if it would make a difference. This is a different role for Whitford, and he delivers with a lovely scene when Megan returns from Iraq.
Falco as Jackie is — well — Falco. She is overly dramatic and wildly awesome to watch as Megan’s mother. Big or small, Falco brings her best to every role she does and always manages to surprise me.
Other cast include Geraldine James as Dr. Turbeville, Shannon Tarbet as Barb, Miguel Gomez as Gomez, Jonathan Howard as Peter Walters, George Webster as Finn, Corey Johnson as Master Sergeant and Tom Felton as Andrew Dean.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “Megan Leavey” four and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. It is very easy to call this a feel-good film, but that would be an injustice to the story being told. There are so many issues that are handled in this story with straight forwardness, no sugar-coating and boldly done.
It is the story of a young woman dealing with the situation her life is in and knowing at some point something had to give. Joining the Marine Corps gives Megan the opportunity to become part of something bigger than herself and not just fighting in a war, but becoming responsible for Rex and the lives of everyone around her. Mara takes this role and lets us all experience the journey of this young woman until the end where we come to understand more than we ever could.
Director Cowperthwaite says of her film, “There are so many important story threads — what about the political commentary about the war one could make, or about a ton of things regarding women Marines and dealing with their situations. There are so many levels and layers, so you have to have story discipline within this, and to focus on this world from Megan’s perspective. You have to hone in on that relationship and how that bond gets built, because that is really what the story is — loyalty and friendship.”
In regards to PTSD and returning troops she says, “Dealing with PTSD when they come home and how we can maybe look at it different and pay attention and be better listeners in that context. I think that would be a great thing.”
“Megan Leavey” is a story that is well done, dealing with issues that might be uncomfortable for some to see but necessary to experience. This film speaks on love, understanding, patience and a friendship that saved not only the lives of others — but of one another as well.
In the end — a true story of a Marine and her best friend!