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film review

Kate Mara stars as Megan Leavey in Gabriella Copperthwaite's Megan Leavey, a Bleecker Street release.Jacob Yakob

The real Megan Leavey won a Purple Heart for nearly being blown to smithereens with Rex, her bomb-sniffing German shepherd, during their second tour in Iraq and fought to adopt him when he could no longer serve. The movie version works best when it shows us what putting the words "woman" and "marine" together really looks like. There's no towel-snapping camaraderie for Leavey (Kate Mara); she's a loner even in the midst of her fellow soldiers. The film – the feature directorial debut for Gabriela Cowperthwaite, whose orcas-in-peril documentary, Blackfish, struck a nerve – treats the handler/dog relationship with respect, not cheap sensationalism. (Although, if a small lump doesn't rise in your throat when Rex jumps out of a moving Humvee to save Leavey, there may be something wrong with you.) Unfortunately, the film also wants to show us what happens to veterans, both human and canine, when they return home and here it loses its way. The stateside scenes meander so much, you'll find yourself in the unlikely position of wishing we were back in Iraq.