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Max, a precision-trained military dog, serves on the frontlines in Afghanistan alongside his handler, U.S. Marine Kyle Wincott. But when things go terribly wrong on maneuvers, Kyle is mortally wounded and Max, traumatized by the loss of his best friend, is unable to remain in service. Shipped stateside, the only human he seems willing to connect with is Kyle’s teenage brother, Justin. Justin’s growing trust in Max helps the four-legged veteran revert back to his heroic self, and as the pair race against time to unravel the mystery behind Kyle’s death, they find more excitement—and danger—than they bargained for. But they each might also find an unlikely new best friend…in each other.]]>
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While it’s exciting, it’s also quite creative in how it uses the forests for the action scenes. The action is very well coordinated, taking advantage of the landscape of the forest to create disasters and getaways in the suspenseful chases. The movie also exudes a powerful nonverbal bond between Justin and his father which develops through facial reactions and events more than through dialogue, and the movie delays for a long time in revealing information about Justin’s father: these are ingredients for a well-developed narrative. Justin doesn’t suddenly choose “I’m not going to be a jerk anymore” but instead is forced by situations to decide what to do. By the time his PARENTS question his integrity, we the AUDIENCE know why he can’t tell them specific details that would endanger their lives.
The dad is cast really well as a “don’t mess with me” Marine vet without much emotional expression and an impenetrable mustache, and I’m pleased with the portrayal of the kids also. They are your typical goof-offs but are clearly decent at heart, all 3 of ‘em. It also leaves you on the edge of your seat about what will happen to Max. When I see a suspenseful movie for the first time (which I just did in the theater for this movie), I’m scared about whether it will turn out well, and then the second time, I’m able to enjoy the suspense more. This is definitely a movie I will watch again eagerly.
If there is one small flaw, it's that the story felt a bit rushed. I felt that some of the more powerful scenes such as the beginning and the funeral should have been longer (helps reinforce the bond between dog and handler).
There's no swearing that I can remember and aside from some mild violence, this is a movie that kids could see with supervision.
I thought the story was great. It was easy to follow, for me anyway. I did not make it past 9 minutes without sobbing. I definitely felt connected to the family and Max. Not too overkill with theatrics. It was just a story and a good one that needed to be told.
Definitely a good movie for kids... perhaps it will influence them in a positive way and change some sour attitudes.