At the start of this very good movie, I remember thinking what a huge shame it is that so many young people, through some accident of birth, were born into a poor family with virtually no way out of a bleak existence and they believe that their only alternative is to join the military. There is always a ton of money that is available to train people to kill other people, but there is far too little money to rescue the lives of so many millions of poor people, whose potential is forever lost just because of the meager circumstances under which they are born. The only caveat to this military option is that you may get killed or maimed, blinded, lose one or several limbs or have permanent PTSD that you never recover from. Apart from this, the job training that you were promised when you joined whatever military service you decided on, may not be a skill that could ever parlay into an actual job in the real world. How many jobs can you get after you leave the military when your only skill is repairing a tank? Once you’re in, you do what you are told and there is nothing you can do to control your own future. You are the property of the United States and other people dictate your future and that includes whether you live or die starting the first day you join the service. My thinking while watching the start of this film was why can’t we invest our money into the potential of a young person who has no viable future, instead of making this deal where maybe they can have a future and some money, but only if they risk their lives first.
The new film Megan Leavey is a true story about a young woman, played very well by Kate Mara, whose life after high school is a disaster. Living in a poor town with her mother and her boyfriend and a product of divorced parents, she wanders through bad jobs with no future until she realizes like so many other young people like her, that her only option is to join the Marines. A great scene in this movie was when Megan’s mother actually asked her daughter how much money she would get if Megan was killed in Iraq, confirming how bad her childhood must have been. What follows is the verbal and physical abuse of boot camp that eventually leads her, after getting punishment duty due to a public drunkenness incident, to cleaning out dog cages. The dogs in this part of the Marines are bomb smelling German Shepards whose special skills are badly needed in Iraq and Afghanistan and have saved many lives. What this movie makes clear is that these military dogs are as valuable and important as any soldier in a war and there is no such thing as “just a dog”. After begging her commanding officer and passing all of her exams to get the opportunity to be a dog handler, Megan Leavey finally gets her chance when another soldier is not able to handle the most difficult of all the dogs, named Rex. The greatest part of this movie is the friendship and bond that develops over time with Megan and Rex and that love grows understandably much stronger when they both face the extreme adversity of the war in Iraq. All of this leads to a very emotional ending that I thought was one of the best conclusions to a movie about the love of dogs I have ever seen.
That acting in Megan Leavey is outstanding and I think there is a chance that Kate Mara might actually receive an Academy Award Nomination. I highly recommend this movie.