4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Megan Leavey, a damn fine little combat picture

Her and Rex. Bring Kleenex.

Megan Leavey: Kate Mara stars as the real-life Wonder Woman who along with K9 soldier Rex helped to save over 100 lives.
Megan Leavey: Kate Mara stars as the real-life Wonder Woman who along with K9 soldier Rex helped to save over 100 lives.

According to the TV spot, Elle and People magazines are going slug-nutty over Megan Leavey, proclaiming the fact-based girl-and-her-dog war drama both “inspiring” and “heartfelt.” Do I heed the advice of these venerated strongholds of film criticism for folks trapped inside a doctor’s office waiting room and pack a hankie, or would a pre-show injection of insulin be more appropriate?

Movie

Megan Leavey ***

thumbnail

Based on the titular real life Wonder Woman who, together with her bomb-sniffing military dog, Rex, formed their own “hurt kennel” of sorts and helped save over 100 lives during their deployment in Iraq. The film unfolds almost religiously from Leavey’s (Kate Mara) point of view. Perfectly cast, the actress not only looks the part, she all but disappears inside the character. This is Gabriella Cowperthwaite’s second feature, the first since her scathing <em>Blackfish</em>, put a dent in local tourism. Can a vicious combat dog adjust to civilian life as a pet? (It’s sort of like asking if a killer whale can live their life as a captive circus clown.) That’s the question Leavey spends the last third of the picture trying to answer in her quest to give a fellow war hero a proper home. For a change the terms heartfelt and inspirational genuinely apply. This one got to me on many levels none more than its ability to hold its own as a polished, damn fine little combat picture. SPOILER ALERT: The dog doesn't die.

Find showtimes

Well whaddya know? Megan Leavey is heartfelt and inspirational! When it was over, I couldn’t see the tops of my shoes for the dozens of dampened tissues that camouflaged them. Best of all, it’s also a polished, damn fine little combat picture in the guise of a docudrama based on the titular real-life Wonder Woman who, together with her bomb-sniffing military dog Rex, formed a “hurt kennel” of sorts and helped save over 100 lives during their deployment in Iraq.

My love of four-legged beasties being what it is, I had cause for some pre-show research. If it turned out that Rex had been blown to smithereens by one of the mines he was sent to sniff out, I’d have passed this one on to my critical partner. SPOILER ALERT: Rex died peacefully in 2012.

At the outset, Leavey (Kate Mara) is depicted as the type of person only a dog could love. By her own admission, she “checked out of life” sometime around 2001. An inability to get along with children, let alone their parents, brought about her dismissal from a job at daycare center. After her closest friend dies (the circumstances are later revealed in flashback) it’s no time at all before Leavey is en route to a South Carolina boot camp.

The film unfolds almost religiously from Leavey’s point of view. Instead of killing time trying to pump depth into a garden-variety mother and stepfather (Edie Falco and Will Patton), director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and her trio of screenwriters sketch out the bare minimum of information about the secondary characters, never once taking their eyes off the star. After all, how much more does one need to know about a mother who questions the amount of insurance money she stands to earn in the event her daughter waltzes onto an explosive device?

Once on base, a night of drunken abandon results in punishment time spent mucking out the kennels, and it’s here that our leads are formally introduced. Rex is an unlikeable, particularly vicious specimen, which probably accounts for a good part of the emotionally drained Leavey’s attraction to the beast. The manner in which Cowperthwaite gradually draws the two soldiers together is natural, never false or cloying.

In no time, every day is take-your-dog to-work day. Rex is terrific, but Mara steals the show. There’s barely a shot that goes by without her, and she handles the attention with aplomb, not only looking the part, but all but disappearing into the character.

Leavey returns home for Christmas, and before Tony Bennett can finish “Jingle Bells,” she’s back on base. Romance is hinted at long enough to offer a break from the tension, but as far as Leavey is concerned, her one and only love walks on all fours. Perhaps that’s why the film is most engaging when she and Rex share screen time.

If the name Gabriella Cowperthwaite rings a bell, it’s probably because her first feature, the scathing SeaWorld expose Blackfish, put a dent in local tourism. Can a vicious combat dog adjust to civilian life as a pet? (It’s sort of like asking if a killer whale can live their life as a captive circus clown.)

That’s the question Leavey spends the last third of the picture trying to answer, in her quest to save a fellow war hero. We’re all nuts about our pets, but you don’t want to be the guy who Leavey spies on a hot day leaving their dog locked in the car long enough to hit up a convenient store. The PTSD-fueled display that followed almost resulted in the marriage of a baseball bat and a windshield.

It’s clear the filmmakers weren’t aiming for an R rating. War films are generally rife with guys dropping f-bombs, but the only one uttered in this picture — and the reason for the PG-13 rating — comes from the mouth of Mara. And rightfully so.

It’s rare that I ask for less profanity, but without that word a more kid-friendly PG rating would have prevailed. It’s a terrific recruitment film, just not the gung ho, propaganda-spewing type most associated with the word. Megan Leavey doesn’t make war look cool — it makes the bond between human and animal look cool. When it’s over, instead of questioning your eligibility to join the military, why not consider adopting a dog? In this case, it’s the simplest, easiest way for life to imitate art.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Mainly Mozart's masterful melange

A consistent level of musical excellence that is unrivaled anywhere
Next Article

College-Rolando Library could end up with no parking

Friendly deal with College Lutheran now in hands of Blue Falcon
Megan Leavey: Kate Mara stars as the real-life Wonder Woman who along with K9 soldier Rex helped to save over 100 lives.
Megan Leavey: Kate Mara stars as the real-life Wonder Woman who along with K9 soldier Rex helped to save over 100 lives.

According to the TV spot, Elle and People magazines are going slug-nutty over Megan Leavey, proclaiming the fact-based girl-and-her-dog war drama both “inspiring” and “heartfelt.” Do I heed the advice of these venerated strongholds of film criticism for folks trapped inside a doctor’s office waiting room and pack a hankie, or would a pre-show injection of insulin be more appropriate?

Movie

Megan Leavey ***

thumbnail

Based on the titular real life Wonder Woman who, together with her bomb-sniffing military dog, Rex, formed their own “hurt kennel” of sorts and helped save over 100 lives during their deployment in Iraq. The film unfolds almost religiously from Leavey’s (Kate Mara) point of view. Perfectly cast, the actress not only looks the part, she all but disappears inside the character. This is Gabriella Cowperthwaite’s second feature, the first since her scathing <em>Blackfish</em>, put a dent in local tourism. Can a vicious combat dog adjust to civilian life as a pet? (It’s sort of like asking if a killer whale can live their life as a captive circus clown.) That’s the question Leavey spends the last third of the picture trying to answer in her quest to give a fellow war hero a proper home. For a change the terms heartfelt and inspirational genuinely apply. This one got to me on many levels none more than its ability to hold its own as a polished, damn fine little combat picture. SPOILER ALERT: The dog doesn't die.

Find showtimes

Well whaddya know? Megan Leavey is heartfelt and inspirational! When it was over, I couldn’t see the tops of my shoes for the dozens of dampened tissues that camouflaged them. Best of all, it’s also a polished, damn fine little combat picture in the guise of a docudrama based on the titular real-life Wonder Woman who, together with her bomb-sniffing military dog Rex, formed a “hurt kennel” of sorts and helped save over 100 lives during their deployment in Iraq.

My love of four-legged beasties being what it is, I had cause for some pre-show research. If it turned out that Rex had been blown to smithereens by one of the mines he was sent to sniff out, I’d have passed this one on to my critical partner. SPOILER ALERT: Rex died peacefully in 2012.

At the outset, Leavey (Kate Mara) is depicted as the type of person only a dog could love. By her own admission, she “checked out of life” sometime around 2001. An inability to get along with children, let alone their parents, brought about her dismissal from a job at daycare center. After her closest friend dies (the circumstances are later revealed in flashback) it’s no time at all before Leavey is en route to a South Carolina boot camp.

The film unfolds almost religiously from Leavey’s point of view. Instead of killing time trying to pump depth into a garden-variety mother and stepfather (Edie Falco and Will Patton), director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and her trio of screenwriters sketch out the bare minimum of information about the secondary characters, never once taking their eyes off the star. After all, how much more does one need to know about a mother who questions the amount of insurance money she stands to earn in the event her daughter waltzes onto an explosive device?

Once on base, a night of drunken abandon results in punishment time spent mucking out the kennels, and it’s here that our leads are formally introduced. Rex is an unlikeable, particularly vicious specimen, which probably accounts for a good part of the emotionally drained Leavey’s attraction to the beast. The manner in which Cowperthwaite gradually draws the two soldiers together is natural, never false or cloying.

In no time, every day is take-your-dog to-work day. Rex is terrific, but Mara steals the show. There’s barely a shot that goes by without her, and she handles the attention with aplomb, not only looking the part, but all but disappearing into the character.

Leavey returns home for Christmas, and before Tony Bennett can finish “Jingle Bells,” she’s back on base. Romance is hinted at long enough to offer a break from the tension, but as far as Leavey is concerned, her one and only love walks on all fours. Perhaps that’s why the film is most engaging when she and Rex share screen time.

If the name Gabriella Cowperthwaite rings a bell, it’s probably because her first feature, the scathing SeaWorld expose Blackfish, put a dent in local tourism. Can a vicious combat dog adjust to civilian life as a pet? (It’s sort of like asking if a killer whale can live their life as a captive circus clown.)

That’s the question Leavey spends the last third of the picture trying to answer, in her quest to save a fellow war hero. We’re all nuts about our pets, but you don’t want to be the guy who Leavey spies on a hot day leaving their dog locked in the car long enough to hit up a convenient store. The PTSD-fueled display that followed almost resulted in the marriage of a baseball bat and a windshield.

It’s clear the filmmakers weren’t aiming for an R rating. War films are generally rife with guys dropping f-bombs, but the only one uttered in this picture — and the reason for the PG-13 rating — comes from the mouth of Mara. And rightfully so.

It’s rare that I ask for less profanity, but without that word a more kid-friendly PG rating would have prevailed. It’s a terrific recruitment film, just not the gung ho, propaganda-spewing type most associated with the word. Megan Leavey doesn’t make war look cool — it makes the bond between human and animal look cool. When it’s over, instead of questioning your eligibility to join the military, why not consider adopting a dog? In this case, it’s the simplest, easiest way for life to imitate art.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

International Smoke and a $29 lunch

Giving in to celebrity chef culture and hoping the bang’s worth the buck
Next Article

Waste and Covid-19 missteps plague CoreCivic's border lockup

"We determined ICE paid more than $22 million for unused bed space"
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close