There have been more than a few (with more on the horizon ) films about soldiers and the difficulties of returning home in the aftermath of serving in combat. Some have been sensationalized depictions with little truth (or heart) and others, more thought-provoking takes on life in the aftermath of war. More recently, these films approach sensitive subjects with more care, but the angle often seems to be slanted toward the “bigger” themes and away from the enlisted men and women performing those tours of duty. The film, frequently leaves the personal interest to drift away in the storytelling.
I had an opportunity to sit down briefly with Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and Producer Pete Shilaimon of LD Entertainment and chat about what motivated them to bring this story to the big screen:
When the trailer for Megan Leavey dropped, it caught my attention because the movie promotion was less about the vagaries of war and more about the treatment of a portion of those enlisted to fight on our behalf who are also often overlooked after returning home: military combat dogs. I’m a bit of a sucker for a military move – I do solemnly swear to be a dyed in the wool military brat – especially one with the possibility of not being a retread thematically and you can be assured I’ll see it at least once. You throw in a dog and I’ll be watching while silently praying I’m not about to see a girl and her dog possibly die.
Now, this doesn’t mean this film is any less about the men and women who serve.Megan Leaveyis also about a marine corporal at the other end of this four-legged warrior’s leash. This film, puts Megan’s, mental state, struggles and ultimately her drive to abandon her partner – and if you anything about the military no soldier will take kindly to insinuations that she should’ve behaved any differently – front and center. This film is based on a true events and uses it source material to tell a nuanced and compelling story about connection, finding your way, and being a voice for the silent.
Megan Leavey was a young woman drifting through life with no real plans or goals and little interest in anything. She lived at home, with a mother (Edie Falco) who monitored her like she was still in high school and a father (Bradley Whitford) mostly absent due to the less than..amicable ending of his marriage. Megan is mostly checked out and completely disconnected from the people. She’s listless, unfocused, and disinterested in most things. Looking for a direction, she enlists in the military with little fanfare or notice to her family.
Megan’s journey through basic training and her first post assignment ultimately lead her to the canine training program where she meets Rex. Megan Leavey‘s director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, created a look and feel that makes the action and development of the relationship and connection between Megan and Rex vivid. Her directing choices and scene selection build not only a personal relationship between the pair, it feels as though she’s peeled back the curtain so the audience has a almost tangible connection to the story. Megan and Rex served on over 100 missions while in Iraq and Rex went on to serve many more after she mustered out. Leavey touches on post-traumatic stress disorders and reintegration issues from some unique (for film) angles. It’s the story of not only re-acclimation, human connection, and friendship but one of self-discovery and finding your purpose. With an stellar cast portraying these real people with understated intensity, humor and genuine feeling, Megan Leavey this is not only a story worth telling, taking a hard look at and working to better acknowledge the efforts of those who serve and protect and life they come home to is a cause worth getting behind.
Based on the true life story of a young Marine corporal whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq.
Runtime: 116 min
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Writers: Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo
Stars: Kate Mara, Ramon Rodriguez, Tom Felton