Somewhere on the road between “that’s nice” and truly inspirational lies this fact-based drama about Megan Leavey (Kate Mara), a hard-edged young woman who joins the Marine Corps and finds her calling as a handler for an explosives-sniffing dog named Rex. There’s the potential for rich character study in the story of two angry creatures who need one another—as much after their traumatic military service as before—and director Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Blackfish) handles the Iraq-set combat scenes with an effective handle on both the tension of never knowing when a threat will emerge, and the chaos after it does. But the human narrative rarely moves beyond a matter-of-fact flatness that blunts any attempt to give Leavey’s story real emotional impact. Mara’s prickly performance remains slightly distanced, making it hard for the story to retain its momentum when the focus in the third act becomes her stateside attempts to adopt Rex after he is retired from service. The connection between Leavey and Rex generally feels more asserted than shown, leading to a movie where one woman’s crusade leads you to nod politely rather than stand up and cheer.
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Producer: Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon, Jennifer Monroe, Robert Huberman, Scott Holroyd, Nicole Stojkovich and José Escolar
Cast: Kate Mara, Edie Falco, Ramon Rodriguez, Tom Felton, Damson Idris, Bradley Whitford, Common, Geraldine James, Will Patton, Corey Johnson, Jonathan Howard and Melina Matthews