I am a huge dog person. I grew up with dogs, and I currently own one. So I accepted this movie review fully knowing that a dog might be in movie simulated danger and that I would probably cry. I only cried four times, I swear. There is something about the harm that comes to animals in films that makes it ten times worse than what happens to humans in film. Maybe it is because they can’t articulate what is happening to them, or the fact that they will blindly follow someone they trust into peril they don’t understand. In any case, as a dog lover, this movie gave me a lot of feels.
The basis of the film is that Max loses his handler Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell) in a shoot out overseas. When the dog returns to the States, he is clearly missing his owner and struggling with moving on from the trauma. Kyle’s parents (Thomas Haden Church and Lauren Graham) aren’t sure what to make of the situation until Max becomes civilized with Justin (Josh Wiggins) the younger brother of Kyle. The family begins adjusting to Max, who is clearly still struggling. Kyle’s best friend in the service Tyler Harne (Luke Kleintank) returns and Max immediately is on alert. I don’t know about other people, but I always trust a dog’s judgment. If they don’t like someone, it’s probably for a damn good reason. Eventually Justin gets pulled into things, and then the whole family does as well. It’s up to Max to save the day.
The film started out with some interesting facts. First, that dogs have been used in military action since World War 1. Also, that over 3,000 dogs have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Opening the film gave some great insight into the roles that dogs have in military action. Used to sniff out people or weaponry, dogs can anticipate upcoming threats. This idea of course makes me sad because I feel it makes dogs more expendable than people. Which in a sense I understand, but as the dog lover I am it makes me sad.
The cast was absolutely phenomenal. Though Robbie Amell gets little screen time, he does incredibly as the older brother going into war to gain respect from his father. Thomas Haden Church and Lauren Graham were fantastic as the worrying parents, though Graham’s Texan accent threw me off hardcore. Especially since no one else in the film was committing to a Texan accent. It felt very off. The star in my opinion is Josh Wiggins as the younger brother. He knows that he’s less of child in his parents’ eyes due to his war-going brother. Justin feels left out in the cold compared to the shining star, older brother; but his connection with the adorable Max ends up saving the family.
The cinematography was breathtaking as the scenes often went into the woods. Either biking with friends or running away from danger, the forestry goes whizzing by in a beautiful flash. I’m a big fan of nature and especially the woods. The shining moment of the cinematography is when the family is celebrating the 4th of July at the town parade. As fireworks crash overhead, Lauren Graham and Thomas Haden Church are seen standing next to each other and they reach out to hold hands. It was breathtaking too.
Overall, it was a fantastic family film, especially if you have a dog or two. Max, played by the adorable Carlos, was absolutely sweet and makes me want to snuggle with him. The best reminder was at the end of the film when we were informed that 26 dogs and 25 handlers have been killed in service since 2003. Whether helping serve our country or simply being the family pet, dogs really are people’s best friends.