There are plenty of war film’s about the camaraderie between soldiers but not many about the bond between human soldiers and their dogs. And perhaps after Megan Leavey, the true story about the title character and her bomb sniffing K-9 named Rex, there should be.

The film, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Blackfish), opens on Megan Leavey (Kate Mara), a young woman in the heart of New York state with little to no prospects for her future at the height of the Iraq War. On the day she is fired from her banal job, she passes by two men, dressed spiffy in their Marine uniforms. She decides to enlist but only because she has no where else to go.

Once she joins the Corps, she quickly finds that her attitude needs to change. After she’s caught peeing outside a superior’s barracks, she is forced to clean the dog kennels under the direction of the loose, but quick to anger, Gunnery Sergeant Massey (Common).

At her persistence, Massey lets her join his team, and she is given a dog that no one wants, Rex. The standoffish German shepherd broke his previous owner’s hand and does nothing but bark at the nervous Leavey.


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But soon, the two are sent on deployment and quickly form a bond stronger than any bond she had seemingly ever formed with another human.What follows is a sad tale in which Leavey receives the purple heart and Rex receives facial nerve paralysis.

Megan Leavy will make you cry. There is little else to be said about that. It is a film about compassion in a place where there is little compassion to be found.

In what could have been a simple tear jerker without much substance below, Cowperthwaite poses subtle but deep questions along the journey, if one chooses to listen.

Across the board, there are great performances from the large cast. Mara holds the film together and delivers an affecting performance as the title character. Common adds a light touch during the first third of the film. Megan Leavey also sees great performances from Tom Felton, who plays a mentor to Leavey, and Eddie Falco, who plays Leavey’s out-of-touch mother.

In the end, Megan Leavey is a film about how it sometimes takes a special kind of love to open us up to the love that’s always been around us.

The Blu-ray edition of Megan Leavey features a short film titled “Never Give Up” which goes into more depth about the true story of the soldier and her dog.

Watch the trailer below.

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