This weekend is certainly a mixed bag of movies from adventure/fantasy to horror/mystery. So why not throw in a military/biographical/drama into the fray as well, this time portraying a different, and more realistic, female super hero. If you are reading past my confusing opening, (and the title of this review), you know I'm talking about Megan Leavey. With leash, and gun, in hand, this movie is the chronicle of her walk into the life of a hero and the struggles she had to climb over to succeed. What's the verdict? You'll have to read on to find out!
Acting: Kate Mara was a fantastic pick for the lead of this movie. Based on Leavey's history (from the little research I've done), Mara was able to play the emotional rainbow required of this complicated role. The angst of a rebellious young adult is perfectly portrayed, with enough saucy edge to keep things spicy, while only going over the line occasionally. Yet, the real portrayal of her talents is her acting of honor, valor, and trauma that comes with being a real-life hero. You'll feel all the emotional turmoil, or in some cases lack of emotional turmoil, associated with marine life and the sense of duty before self. Many audience members became entangled in all the feelings of the movie, captivating them in the story.
Good Pace: We know that many military dramas are a little long winded, whether in build up or the tail end of the spectrum. Not the case for Megan Leavey. This movie keeps things moving quite well, blending excitement, suspense, and character development in a decently condensed time. The training portion of the movie is funny and heartwarming as bond between dog and human is formed, adequately building what will be the key foundation for the rest of the movie. Once the exciting deployment begins, the tension only surmounts and keeps one further fastened into the movie, constantly reeled in with each ticking minute as they perform their duty. It's engaging! It's exciting! And it is real!
The Dog: Let's face it though, the best part of this movie for most is going to be getting to see the dog or dogs trained to sniff out bombs. Megan Leavey may be a tale about a woman transforming into a hero, but the director also does extraordinary work with the developing the dog's status as a warrior itself. Watching Rex perform all the duties required of him is awesome, feeling like a human actor himself rather than a four-legged accessory. If you think Mara is the emotional lure in the film, then yes you are correct, but that would make Rex the lighthouse of emotions drawing you more into the flame of this movie. Watching Rex with the consistent worry that something will happen is the true suspense of this movie, I myself silently praying he would make it home alive.
Movie magic drama: We know that when it comes to describing drama, many films can exaggerate the truth. While I'm not certain how tough Megan's life was, this movie had many moments and characters that felt a little overdramatic to me. I'm not talking about the war aspect, we know that's hell. No, the real overacted moments come in the form of her family life, primarily the interaction with her mom. Eye-rolling moments aside, fans who like these overzealous characters are in for a treat, but it hit some nerves and took away from the movie.
The Final Act: Megan Leavey's film is split into three parts for me and the first two parts are epically put together to keep the film exciting. The third part however, is more on the slower side and not the area I would have spent a great deal of time on. I can't say much without ruining things, but here it goes. This finale is certainly emotional, well designed, and a fine example of character development. However, the pace changes at this part, doesn't focus on the chemistry I fell in love with. Yes, it's emotional, and the parts are well put together, I just wanted a little more time with the dog and woman.
Theater Worthy?: This is a tough component because there is a lot about this movie I like. However, I can't say the movie was really something that needed to be in theaters. With few special effects and stunts, and a story that, while touching, isn't an epic, adventure/book like drama that Hollywood theaters have captured. Instead, this movie would have been solid on the History Channel or a Netflix original movie where you could enjoy it in the comfort of your own home. So, don't behead me people, I'm just trying to save you some money to maximize the quality of the film.
Megan Leavey is one of the better military drams I've seen in a while. A fantastic chemistry between man and dog uniting to portray the honor of military service is a leading factor to see this movie. With emotional sequences captured by beautiful cinematography and epic acting, you'll find this at the top of a lot of drama loving lists. Yet, it still lacks some finesse in terms of perfect pace and even more lacks the theater quality effects that make the expensive ticket worthwhile, unless you get the discount show. Still it is a movie worth checking out when you can, to pay tribute to an honorable woman, her dog, and the heroes that are our military.
Biography/Drama/War: 8.5 Movie Overall: 6.5