Based on the inspirational true story of American Marine Corporal Megan Leavey (Kate Mara) and her loyal military combat dog – who saved many lives during their service in Iraq – Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s new feature Rex is a heart-warming tale of companionship that follows the duo through their tour of the war-stricken country, until an IED explosion puts the future of their relationship into question.
An emotional gut-punch, Rex fully embodies the unbreakable bond between human and canine that any dog owner will be all too familiar with. Much of this is down to Mara’s fantastic performance as a heart-broken veteran who just wants to keep her friend safe from any further harm. Delivering a largely subdued performance, the actress keeps the majority of her lines grounded and free from melodramatics, so when the moments come when she can’t hold back the tears any longer, the weight of the situation hits hard.
Part of the reason why we care so much about the duo is that we get a clear sense of the situations they’ve been through together. The sequences in Iraq are terrifyingly tense; knowing that everything could go wrong at any moment keeps you on the edge of your seat, and Cowperthwaite is able to squeeze every drop of tension from these moments. Given that these scenes are arguably the best in the movie, it’s disappointing that there wasn’t more focus given to this part of Leavey and Rex’s life.
The issue with Rex, however, is that it tries to be a lot of different things at once: it attempts to be a war film, a coming-of-age story, a romance and a story of redemption, but never manages to commit itself to any one thing – which results in many sporadic tonal shifts throughout. Whilst none of these aspects are necessarily bad, it’s nevertheless distracting to cut from a cheesy romance scene to a reminder of the brutality of war. Likewise, it does take quite some time for this picture to find its paws. The first five minutes, for instance, plays out more as a wacky teen comedy – which is worlds away from where we end up.
In spite of its juxtaposing tones, nothing is able to detract from Rex’s heart-warming conclusion, which underlines everything the film stands for: the lengths we’ll go for to save our incredible four-legged friends.
Rex is released digitally on 12th March 2018 and on DVD on 19th March 2018.
Watch the trailer for Rex here: