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MOVIE REVIEW

Megan Leavey

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for war violence, language, suggestive material, and thematic elements.

Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Genre:
Biography War Drama
Length:
1 hr. 56 min.
Year of Release:
2017
USA Release:
May 7, 2017 (festival)
June 9, 2017 (wide—1,956 theaters)
DVD: September 5, 2017
Copyright, Bleecker Street Media click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Bleecker Street Media
Relevant Issues
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God created dogs with a remarkable ability to detect scents. In 1997, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched an exhaustive program to understand the dynamics of how a dog smells and see if they could manually recreate it. The program, called “Dog’s Nose,” sought to leverage “the components of the canine olfactory system to create a breakthrough detection system.”

After 13 years and $19-billion, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) failed to improve on what God created.

As the organization’s commander Lt. Gen. Michael Oates put it, “Dogs are the best detectors.”

Yet, it is not their remarkable capacity for scent alone that makes dogs so special—add their nose to their loyalty, work ethic, capacity for endurance, and historically close relationship with human beings.

power and depth of some human-animal bonds

Copyright, Bleecker Street Media

difficulties with bad parents

taking illegal drugs and becoming drunk

how to become a self-disciplined person

courage / bravery / self-sacrfice

challenges of military duty

Copyright, Bleecker Street Media

war in the Bible

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

Iraq War

war wounds

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—hits both soldiers and combat dogs

Issue of pain and suffering

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

ORIGIN OF BAD—How did bad things come about? Answer

Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer

Copyright, Bleecker Street Media Copyright, Bleecker Street Media Copyright, Bleecker Street Media Copyright, Bleecker Street Media Copyright, Bleecker Street Media
Featuring: Kate MaraMegan Leavey
Tom Felton … Andrew Dean
Edie Falco … Jackie Leavey
CommonGunny Martin
Will PattonJim
Geraldine James … Dr. Turbeville
Bradley Whitford … Bob
Shannon Tarbet … Barb
Ramon Rodriguez … Matt Morales
Corey Johnson … Master Sergeant
See all »
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite—“Blackfish” (2013)
Producer: Mickey Liddell
Jennifer Monroe
See all »
Distributor: Bleecker Street Media

“They aren’t pets, they’re warriors.”

Megan Leavey (Kate Mara) is a troubled young lady and admits this early on when she says, “I [had] checked out of life completely.” After the devastation of losing her best friend to drugs and then getting fired for being hung-over, while working with young children no less, she realizes she needs a change in her life or she will end up like her friend.

Fate steps in one day when she passes a Marine recruiting station and, against her mother’s wishes (in part to spite her), Megan joins the Corps.

Landing in hot water again, she is assigned to clean out the kennels that house the combat dogs used for sniffing and locating bombs, weapons and ammunition. Megan becomes focused and sets her sights now on becoming a dog handler. She doubles down on her efforts to meet the high standards required and, after painstaking effort, is accepted into the K9 unit and soon ships out to Iraq with her dog Rex.

Megan is told upfront that women do not go out on missions, but, instead, are relegated to work only at checkpoints. However, she finds that even the relative safety of that assignment can still be harrowing when it takes place in a bombed-out Iraqi town where trusting any of the locals may cost you your life.

During her first tour, Megan finds a fellow New Yorker on the squad named Morales (Ramon Rodriguez) and soon a friendship forms. Shorthanded one day, Megan is ordered to go on what would turn out to be the first of her many missions.

Based on a true story the film encompasses her time in Iraq, some of the missions that she and Rex undertook, her troubles adjusting as a civilian again and finally her inspired efforts to adopt the dog that saved her life and the lives of countless others.

“Megan Leavey” is a frequently captivating film about one person’s search for meaning, and her ultimate discovery of purpose, friendship and even love amidst the harshest of circumstances. The film is also a reminder of the sacrifice our soldiers make every day on our behalf.

Some solid performances are turned in by Kate Mara and supporting characters Morales and Sgt. Gunny (Common), but, as the film has a PG-13 rating, one can expect there to be questionable material to consider before deciding to see this film.

Objectionable Content

Violence: Moderate. Mostly restricted to her tours in Iraq, soldiers are seen exchanging gunfire, including the larger 50 caliber, with insurgents, who also deploy shoulder mounted RPGs (rocket propelled grenades). Men are shot, exploded at close range and suffer from shrapnel, but blood is kept to a minimum, as are the injuries seen. During dog training, the K9’s are commanded to attack and are aggressively vicious doing so. A dog is seen biting a soldier in the buttocks and getting a hold of another’s hand, breaking bones in the process. An injured K9 cries out in pain during a veterinarian’s examination. Megan shows signs of having post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and she loses control of her anger once, almost smashing a car window—a sober reminder that soldiers often do not come back unaffected after their tour.

Not recommended for younger children, but more palatable for twelve and older.

Language: Heavy. The Lord’s name is taken in vain 9 times—G*d (12), G*d-d**n (2), Jesus (2), Jesus Ch*** (1), Oh My G*d (2). Foul and crude language includes; the f-word (1), sh** (13), a** (4), a**h*** (2), son-of-a-b**** (1), h*ll (1), da*n (3), cr*p (5), sc**w (3), frigg** (1), and b*ne (2)—both of these in reference to a warning about rape. There is also talk in reference to women’s underwear and the teasing of a soldier about his virginity. Although tame for a war film, the foul language makes this inappropriate for children.

Sex/Nudity: Megan is often seen wearing form fitting tops, sometimes bra-less, as well as a sports bra and underwear briefs. There are two scenes of kissing, one of which has a man atop her leading up to sex, but the scene ends before any clothes are removed. Afterward, the man is shirtless with his nudity implied under the sheets, while she wears a regular top and the briefs just mentioned—an unnecessary scene, not meant for children, that similarly sends the wrong message to teens.

PURITY—Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

Lessons

As we follow Megan on her journey, we share in her experiences, and there are definite lessons to be learned on issues such as drunkenness, parenting, loyalty and love.

Drunkenness—Megan turns to drinking often and goes back to this behavior to celebrate completing boot camp. Alcohol in excess has long been a problem, and Holy Scripture does address this foolishness and the fact that if heavy drinking can bring down holy men shouldn’t we be wary as well?

Wine [is] a mocker, strong drink [is] raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. —Proverbs 20:1

…the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble [in] judgment. —Isaiah 28:7

Parenting—Megan’s divorced parents represent the film’s unsung villain and hero of her story. Her mother always denigrates her at every opportunity, even when being ‘nice,’ as in when she says to her, “You don’t look terrible,” while the father is more supportive and always kind to her. Paul’s letter to the Colossians warns of the mother’s type of attitude.

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” —Colossians 3:20

After Megan’s ‘graduation’ ceremony, her mother wonders about death benefits should something happen to her daughter. Contrast this with Megan’s dad who tells her that if she needs something, he would do “whatever it took,” because he loves her. The Bible is clear to us that looking to our children’s welfare above our own is ‘part and parcel’ of being a parent.

For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. —2 Corinthians 12:14

Loyalty—Most will no doubt be inspired by the great lengths that Megan goes through to give her war partner a chance at a normal life. Soldiers on the battlefield often become part of a brotherhood that most of us cannot comprehend, and the Bible certainly speaks on this level of comradery and friendship.

There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. —Proverbs 18:24

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. —John 15:13

Of course the truest and ultimate example of loyalty is that of God himself.

If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is. —2 Timothy 2:13

The first half of Megan Leavey is a compelling story that closes all too soon. Depicted in terms of time spans (i.e., “Month Six” in Iraq) the film does not do justice to the ‘real life’ Megan’s 2 tours or the nearly 100 missions that both she and Rex accomplished. The pacing lags during the second half of the film, as we watch Megan struggle to find meaning away from her unit and her now reassigned dog Rex, but picks up again as Megan finally rises to the challenge, bringing the film to a powerful and emotionally stirring conclusion.

“Megan Leavey,” in the final analysis, is an inspiring, well-made film about perseverance and loyalty that is marred by some unnecessary content. Cautiously recommended for teens and adults only.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Mild to moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


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Movie Critics
…targets the heart and scores a bull’s-eye… If you have a soft spot for dogs, this is a love story you’ll find irresistible.
Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
…Incisive and deeply affecting… sharp, compassionate film… compelling tension… fine contributions from production designer…and cinematographer… The screenplay…finds nuance in every exchange…
Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter
…balances the film’s action and emotional beats nicely… the defining battle shies away from too much gore; The Hurt Dog Locker this isn’t. …makes the resulting film more kid-friendly, if still quite intense. [3/4]
Chris Knight, National Post [Canada]
…a rarity in military-themed cinema: an affecting portrait of two war heroes, neither of whom is a human male. …an even-tempered slice of pro-animal sentimentality that may not be the smoothest piece of filmmaking, but wears its emotions honestly…
Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times
…In addition to Mara's good work, there are some other strong performances here… “Megan Leavey” isn't a big, or particularly surprising picture; it sketches out a simple story and then, reliably delivers. But I couldn't stop thinking about it after I left…
Stephen Whitty, The Star-Ledger
…her performance is rich and nuanced… clunky but moving drama… cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore’s visuals, which are a cut above competent but still overly enamored with shaky-cam compositions that wobble whether the action is anxious or sedate. …
Nick Schager, Variety
…sidesteps the horrors [of war] and ends up being about the lengths to which one person can go to bring about moral justice. Here, that translates to PTSD-suffering Leavey’s indefatigable, postwar agitating to adopt her furry, now equally unbalanced, wonder dog… [3/5]
Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle