By Sandie Angulo Chen,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Poignant, earnest drama about a Marine and her war dog.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Strong messages about courage, persistence, and hard work. Megan and Rex's inspiring story shows how teamwork and communication can change a person's life and help save others. Also positive messages about women in the military and how Megan was a pioneer in the field for her work with Rex.
Positive Role Models
Megan starts out sad and aimless but becomes courageous, focused, and disciplined once she's in the Marines and decides she wants to become a dog handler. She's persistent with training Rex and doesn't allow his reputation to affect how she handles him. The other Marines are brave, with Andrew Dean and Matt Morales in particular proving themselves kind and encouraging to Megan. Gunny Martin is tough but supportive. Megan's parents are flawed and make mistakes but generally mean well.
Violence & Scariness
A dog bites his handler, breaking bones. An IED causes a dangerous explosion in Iraq. Rex finds a cache of weapons in an Iraqi home. Rex and Megan are injured. A supporting character is killed (off screen). A fire fight breaks out between the Marines and Iraqi insurgents. Tension and peril during the Iraq scenes. Some angry exchanges.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two characters flirt and eventually kiss and presumably have sex (off camera), as they're later shown in bed together, him shirtless and her wearing only a top and underwear.
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One exasperated utterance of "f--k," plus occasional uses of "s--t," "crap," "goddamn," "bitch," "ass," "a--hole," "piss," and "hell," plus "Jesus Christ" and "oh my god" used as exclamations.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink at dinners out, a bar, and while deployed. One trio of young Marines drinks so much that one young woman vomits, and another pees publicly. A couple of characters smoke cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Megan Leavey is an inspiring, poignant drama based on the true story of a young Marine corporal who worked with a bomb-sniffing combat dog to keep their fellow soldiers safe during the war in Iraq. Megan (Kate Mara), like her dog, Rex, is initially considered aggressive and unpredictable, but together they work effectively and are touchingly close. The movie has several scenes of war, including tense, violent moments set in Iraq in which IEDs explode. Megan and Rex are both injured during a mission, and a supporting character dies while deployed. The language is occasionally strong and includes "s--t," "piss," "crap," goddamn," and one "f--k." Civilian and military adults drink, in one case so much that the person throws up. Late in the film, a relationship between Megan and another soldier turns romantic, and there are a few scenes of making out on a bed (he's shirtless) that make it clear they've had sex. Viewers will learn a lot about the Marines' war dogs and their handlers and will come away with strong messages about teamwork, perseverance, communication, and courage.
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Based on 8 parent reviews
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This movie is no doubt the most heartfelt and touching story i've ever seen!! ❤
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What's the Story?
MEGAN LEAVEY is based on the true story of young, grieving, depressed Megan Leavey (Kate Mara), who enlists in the Marines and discovers her calling after she's forced to clean out the K-9 war dog unit's kennels. Megan badgers the unit's commander, Gunny Martin (Common), to accept her on the dog-handling team -- and, after she manages to practice and earn the necessary recommendations, she gets her wish. Soon after joining, Megan is paired with Rex, the most aggressive and unpredictable bomb-sniffing canine in the unit. After hard work and training, Megan and Rex deploy and effectively handle mission after mission in Iraq, where they meet other Marine dog handlers and dog teams, like Matt Morales (Ramon Rodriguez). But after a particularly dangerous mission ends in injury, Megan decides not to re-enlist. She believes she'll be allowed to formally adopt Rex, but the Marine Corps may not agree.
Is It Any Good?
Mara shines in this touching, refreshingly apolitical military drama as a young Marine recruit who finds her calling as a dog handler. Mara may be in her 30s, but she's convincing as a younger woman who's unmotivated and grieving until she joins the Marines and discovers the K-9 unit. And she's surrounded by talented actors in supporting roles, including Megan's divorced parents -- Edie Falco as her clueless mom and Bradley Whitford as her quietly supportive dad -- and fellow soldiers, but this is clearly her film, and she's in every scene of it. Megan isn't particularly likable at first, but as the film progresses, audiences will feel invested in both her and her connection to Rex.
Despite foreshadowing to prepare for it, the romance between Megan and Matt Morales feels slightly unnecessary. The bantering conversation between the two would have played just as well if they'd never moved past platonic friendship, although perhaps it's part of the real Leavey's story that they become a couple. Not all stories about women need a romance, but at least they stay friends long enough to tease out the attraction. And somehow, despite being about the Iraq war, the film manages to stay uncritical of the war while still showing the uglier side of it. It's patriotic without being nationalistic, which is a tricky (but refreshing) balance to pull off. Sensitive dog lovers should be aware that animals look injured but survive and are celebrated as deserving of a home, no matter how startled or aggressive they might seem under upsetting circumstances.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the violence in Megan Leavey. Is it necessary to the story? How is realistic war violence different from stylized, fantasy, or superhero-movie violence?
How is Megan's grief portrayed in the movie? How do you think you might react in similar circumstances? How does her choice to join the Marines help her through it?
How do the different characters in the movie demonstrate courage, communication, teamwork, and perseverance? Why are these an important character strengths?
What challenges does Megan face that the male Marines don't? Do you think this is an accurate representation of what it's like to be a woman in the military?
How close to the truth do you think the movie is? Why might filmmakers decide to change things in a fact-based film?
- In theaters: June 9, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: September 5, 2017
- Cast: Kate Mara, Bradley Whitford, Tom Felton, Common, Ramon Rodriguez
- Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
- Inclusion Information: Black actors, Latinx actors
- Studios: Bleecker Street, LD Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice
- Character Strengths: Communication, Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: war violence, language, suggestive material, and thematic elements
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: October 14, 2022
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