Starring: Kate Mara, Ramon Rodriguez, Tom Felton
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Running Time: 116 mins
Megan Leavey is an American film about a young woman who, after signing up to the US Marines, forms an inseparable bond with Rex, a military combat dog, as the two save lives when deployed in Iraq.
Although I can’t say it’s the world’s most emotionally affecting drama, Megan Leavey does its job as an engaging true-life story, thanks to a strong central performance from Kate Mara (as well as her dog) and a passionate and patriotic atmosphere. It may not have the intensity of the greatest war films, however as an inspiring true story, it’s a good watch.
From the start, the film feels a lot like it’s trying hard to tap into the same mindset as American Sniper, but with a slightly different angle. So, the visual style is identical to both American Sniper as well as all of the other US war films set in the Middle East, while the story’s structure follows a very formulaic pattern, with our lead going through her battle training, deployment, and life back home.
Of course, Megan Leavey isn’t quite American Sniper. For one, it doesn’t feature anywhere near the same emotional intensity, and although it manages to impress when it comes to delivering a passionate level of patriotism, while also impressively not straying into overly jingoistic territory, it’s just not as riveting a watch, feeling a lot more basic and predictable in its approach to telling a true story.
However, there are still some positives to take from the story. Above all, the film does a great job at emphasising the strength of the bond felt between Megan Leavey and Rex. It’s not just a fluffy dog film, but a story that really shows the depth of emotion that can be felt in such a relationship, something that’s brilliantly portrayed in the film’s final act, where Megan begins struggling in her life after service, easily proving the film’s most dramatically riveting part.
Another reason that that side of the story works so well is because of the excellent central performance by Kate Mara. Although Mara doesn’t often manage to feature in many big leading roles, smaller films like this prove that she is a great talent, as she easily stands out as the film’s best by a country mile. She’s strong and confident when the situation warrants, but she’s just as easily able to portray a character in deep emotional distress when the time comes, showing a brilliant dramatic range that makes her character here fully engaging to follow throughout, which I was very impressed by.
In the end, Megan Leavey doesn’t have the depth or intensity when it comes to telling a truly riveting story, often feeling a little formulaic and basic in its delivery, however thanks to some strong passion behind the camera and an excellent central performance, it’s an engaging watch nonetheless, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2 overall.