Megan Leavey falls into arguably the most common class of "true story" movies: it selects a story that is unique enough but mostly holds an appeal for a certain audience, tells it efficiently, and doesn't leave much more of an impression. It's a film mostly pitched to the people who already know about Megan and Rex and would be excited by the prospect of seeing it dramatized, even if the film does hold a handful of effective moments for those who aren't already primed to enjoy it.
Kate Mara, so far best known for a stint on "House of Cards," a part in The Martian, and starring as Sue Storm in the ill-fated Fantastic Four reboot, isn't bad in the lead role, but her consistently adequate performance flattens Leavey's energy. She has a believable bond with the dog, and she never hurts the film, but she lacks a spark or charisma that would help bring character scenes to life. Then again, actors like Falco, Will Patton, Tom Felton, and Bradley Whitford don't really fare any better, popping up for what amount to extended cameos and never quite bringing the movie to life. Of the ensemble, only Common adds a bit of crackle to his character Gunny Martin, who is in charge of the canine unit, and the presence of Ramon Rodriguez, as a fellow soldier named Matt who has a connection with Megan, adds a sexual chemistry brings Mara to life.
Megan Leavey is the first narrative feature film by director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who previously helmed the gripping SeaWorld expose documentary Blackfish. Some of the film is particularly striking, especially an extended action sequence taking place in Iraq that kicks off the second core conflict for Megan. The detonation of a land mine and the subsequent firefight is spectacular and harrowing, one of the few sequences in the movie that grabs the viewer's attention and keeps it. On the other hand, Cowperthwaite definitely needs to hire a better editor. If Leavey has a single problem, it's stretching a 90-minute story out to just under two hours, especially as the film segues into the second half of the story, in which Megan petitions the Army to rethink its position on how combat dogs are treated, and fighting for the permission to adopt Rex once his service is over.
In the heavily-charged political atmosphere of 2017, it's also worth noting that Megan Leavey is a curiously apolitical film (much like this last weekend's big true-story blockbuster, American Made). Although the film gives a certain amount of lip service to the dangers that women in the Army face, both from the enemy and their fellow soldiers, as well as racism and sexual discrimination, the screenplay (by Pamela Gray, Tim Lovestedt, and curious, Bridesmaids' Annie Mumolo), tends to avoid tough or touchy subjects. In principle, that's not necessarily an outrageous position to take, and in execution that includes limiting both excessive pro-military jingoistic nonsense and open criticism of the reasons for being in Iraq (although right-wingers may roll their eyes at the appearance of Chuck Schumer as a character in a brief scene near the end of the film). That said, in the case of Leavey, that feels more like it stems from a timidness that keeps the whole movie from being little more than pleasant.
The Video and Audio
Trailers for Logan Lucky, The Promise, The Mummy (2017), and A Dog's Purpose play before the main menu. On said menu, there is a "Previews" section containing further trailers for The Last Word, Denial, Danny Collins, I'll See You in My Dreams, Pawn Sacrifice, and Trumbo. No trailer for Megan Leavey is included.