Surprises when you’re in this line of work are rare. Despite being an animal lover and a dog owner, Megan Leavey was not a movie that was on my radar whatsoever. So, it was an utter delight to come across this earlier on this week and discover that it’s really terrific. Opening today, it’s a true life drama that tugs at your heartstrings in a very real way. Seamlessly blending the “boy and his dog” story, with a gender reversal, with a modern military tale, it works in a big way. This is much more than the tale of a girl and her dog. It’s a tale of friendship, heroism, and sacrifice. It’s one of the year’s best films so far.
This true story centers on title character Megan Leavey (Kate Mara), a troubled and aimless woman who found mean in the armed forces, working with military dogs. Getting to the level of Marine corporal, Megan found a unique bond and a discipline with her combat dog Rex. Together, they saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq, becoming heroes in the process. Once Megan left the Marines, she found out that Rex was in danger of being put to sleep. That began a process to try and adopt him, one made harder by his distinction of “un-adoptable” by a veterinarian. Supported by her father (Bradley Whitford), she makes it her business to save her friend and partner. Gabriela Cowperthwaite directs a script written by Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo, and Tim Lovestedt. Also in the cast here are Common, Edie Falco, Tom Felton, Geraldine James, Will Patton, Ramon Rodriguez, Parker Sawyers, and more.
Mara deserves to be considered for an Academy Award nomination here. She has, quite frankly, never been better than she is in this movie. It’s the type of performance that would just outright win awards for a slightly higher profile actress. That doesn’t mean Mara isn’t a star, as she is, but the project itself just deserves a bigger spotlight, chiefly for her performance. Working with an animal is never easy, but she showcases a top tier chemistry with her canine co-star. The same goes for her and Whitford, who is dynamite in one specific scene towards the end. The two of them help elevate an effective, if slightly manipulative, picture to the level of one of 2017’s ten best right now.
In a perfect world, Megan Leavey is a film that contends at very least for Mara in Best Actress. Anything further is a pipe dream, but I wouldn’t mind if a campaign was launched in Best Picture, Best Actress (for Mara), and Best Supporting Actor (for Whitford). The only realistic chance is Mara in Actress, and even then, this unfortunately seems like a flick destined to fall between the cracks. Hopefully her two time Oscar nominee Rooney Mara can help lead the charge and turn voters on to this one. If the precursors pay it any mind, she’ll at least have a fighting chance.
This weekend, audiences have a surprisingly top notch cinematic option in Megan Leavey. It may not be as great as The Hero, also opening today, but it’s still quite good. The year is starting to really pick up, quality, wise, so use this enthusiastic recommendation as motivation to get to cinemas over the coming days. Mid level films like this, not made for a penny but not made for a fortune either, deserve your support. They’re a dying breed, so do your best to save them. Moreover, this is just a great film, so make it your business to see it. You won’t regret it…
Be sure to check out Megan Leavey, in theaters everywhere now!