It's based on a true story, which makes it even more poignant.
But this one is a heart-tapper all on its own, even if you aren't a
dog lover. And especially if
Megan Leavey (Kate
Mara) is not particularly enjoying her life.
She's not interested in college, works at a dead-end job, still
lives at home, and lost her best friend.
She realizes she's going nowhere, so she just decides to join the
Marines. And there, things
aren't much better.
She makes it through boot camp, but not exactly with flying colors.
She didn't score particularly well in anything, and had to be
disciplined besides, and now finds herself on the dog poop detail.
washing out the kennels where they are training the bomb-sniffing dogs.
But finally something clicks here.
She finds she really likes being around the dogs, even though she
still gets the grunt work, like wearing the padded suit so the dogs can
practice biting and holding. Now
suddenly having motivation, she scores better on marksmanship and physical
regimen tests, and finally has her own dog to train:
Rex, who has been a particular handful for his previous trainer,
who managed to get bit, with bones broken.
Megan and Rex learn to relax around one another, and they both
graduate, which means they get summarily shipped off to Iraq.
Seven months “in country.”
Procedurally, females soldiers aren't supposed to go on missions,
but rather, be confined to the bases, but like they told her at boot camp,
when you hit the ground in hostile territory, all expectations---and
regulations---are suspended. Megan
and Rex go on patrol because there's no other team available.
And they do extraordinarily good work together.
But it's a nerve-wracking, painstaking task, searching for
explosive devices. If you miss
one, people get killed. Maybe
you. And there are lots of
“suicide bombers” out there, just hoping to take out a few Marines
with them. And it was in that
scenario that Megan and Rex both get injured.
Megan gets sent to the hospital, then home on furlough.
Max, too, goes back to the training kennel for his recovery.
Megan is all ready to call it a career and take Max home with her.
But the Marines aren't quite willing to give up on Rex.
He gets sent for another tour of duty, because there aren't many
dogs as skilled as he is sniffing out the hidden explosives.
Megan finds civilian life very frustrating.
Neither of her divorced parents really know what to do with her,
and she hasn't figured out what to do with herself, either.
Yes, she's suffering from PTSD, and yes, she's attending a therapy
group. But she can't get over
her obsession with being reunited with Rex, adopting him, and taking him
home. Eventually, she turns to
social media to help her petition, and finally, the Marines retire Rex,
and Megan is able to adopt him at last.
You can't help but root for Megan every step of the way.
Rooney Mara plays her with just the right mix of gutsy
determination and emotional vulnerability.
Nothing comes easy to her. But
then, that makes her story even more compelling.