So usually, I don’t like to watch war movies or even violent action flicks. Despite this on a Saturday afternoon, my routine movie time bonding with my frenchie and me found us watching Megan Leavey. It was, of course, a movie about dogs and humans ( our favorite movies mostly are ). It was also war-themed. Megan Leavey ironically reminded me of the silent role our pet canines play not only in enriching our life but also in making the world a better place. Silent and oftentimes unappreciated.
The movie is named after Corporal Megan Leavey who is, in reality, a US marine corporal veteran. She served as a military canine handler in the Iraq war and received a Purple Heart for her exemplary service and heroism in combat. She was paired in Iraq with a military working dog called Sergeant Rex.
The movie Megan Leavey is a biographical adaptation of true life events of Megan Leavey the lady soldier who along with Rex a military working dog served in the war zone in Iraq. It is based on her and Rex’s experiences in Fallujah in 2005 and in Ramadi in 2006 both in Iraq and thereafter.
She, along with Rex her military dog was deployed in the military K9 explosive device detection squad. They were both injured by an explosive device while on duty. The movie is directed by Gabrielle Cowperthwaite and has a star cast consisting of Kate Mara ( who acts as Megan Leavey), Ramon Rodriguez, Common, Tom Felton, Edie Falco, Will Patton and many more. In fact, Gabriela Cowperthwaite and Kate Mara are both noted animal rights advocates.
Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s 2013 BAFTA award nominated documentary ‘Blackfish’ induced Seaworld to change its policies about captive whales. So I knew the movie would be a good one with no animals having being harmed during its filming.
The movie begins with Megan’s youth when she is shown as a directionless depressed young woman who has little family support from mother who is divorced from her father. She has recently lost her best friend who killed himself. Joining the marine corp for her at that point is an escape route but she soon learns better. She is at a point in her life when feels close to suicide herself and joins the US Marine Corp initially to escape from her life circumstances.
Gradually, as the movie progresses she realizes that being a US military marine is much more and this emotional drama gently unfolds to show us the strength and courage the military instills in her. Her training and the disciplined routine she learns to follow gives her purpose however it is when she meets with a war dog at the military canine handling unit where she is learning to be a military dog handler that she has this life-changing revelation. She realizes there is more to life than wallowing in self-pity, depression and looking for the occasional thrill or high. She learns what fear, loyalty, partnership, and respect are. This lesson stays with her throughout her serving as a soldier in Iraq and even after.
The best part of the movie was it her bond with a military German shepherd dog called Rex ( in reality the role was played by three dogs, a German Shepherd called Varco was the main actor dog and there were two understudy dogs ).
It is her bond with this military dog that teaches her the most valuable lesson of courage, caring, perseverance and respect. This gives her the ability to overcome her depression and the sad unstable emotional life her family circumstances have created.
However, her newfound purpose comes to a rude interruption and halt when a bomb that she and her dog miss detecting, goes off injuring her and her military dog. After her recovery, she is not able to bounce back emotionally in order to return to her job at the war front. She chooses to return home as a war veteran. Her military dog, however, is returned to the war zone with a different human handler once his physical injuries heal. However the dog’s psychological injuries including the emotional angst of having being injured by a bomb remain. While she can choose to go home and retire as a war veteran, he can’t and gets reassigned. The dog’s emotional scarring and killer instinct which the military actually honed to make him a lethal military dog now has him declared as dangerous to live amongst civilians. Since all their life war dogs are trained to enhance their killer instinct this happens to many military dogs who after their war duty are simply put down after retirement despite being war veterans who have saved many human lives.
Megan Leavey believes she can adopt Rex and he will settle down to a quiet peaceful life in his last few years. She campaigns and fights to have her military dog retired for adoption so he can stay with her for the rest of his life. It’s a tough battle and most people advise her against it. It is her father that reminds her of the importance of not giving up. She then goes on to receive the help of a US Senator ( the help of US Senator Charles Schumer was in fact taken by Corporal Megan Leavey ) and campaigns for a way to have her war dog recognized as a war veteran who needs to come home.
In real life, Megan Leavey and her military dog Rex were publicly honored by the Yankee’s at the Yankee Stadium before one of their games. The movie ends on a similar emotional note with her receiving custody of Rex in a public ceremony at a crowded stadium also hosting a game. Her fight for recognition of animal rights succeeds and her efforts to bring war dogs home to adoption viewing them as war veterans like their human counterparts hold true. A beautiful emotional drama which portrays the bond between canine and pet parent despite all odds.