It’s based on the true story of a Marine and her struggle to adopt the dog she worked with in Iraq. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

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Though it takes a while to find its purpose — like its central character — “Megan Leavey” is ultimately a love story. Megan (Kate Mara), a 20-year-old drifter with a terrible mother (Edie Falco) and no idea what she wants to do with her life, becomes a Marine, and while in training meets her beloved: Rex, an aggressive German shepherd who’s part of the unit’s K-9 team. Shipped to a combat zone in Iraq, the two become heroes together. Back home, their relationship continues; Megan wants to adopt Rex after he “retires” but is told that he isn’t a pet. “They aren’t even dogs anymore,” says a military veterinarian. “They’re warriors.”

The film is based on true events (the real Megan and Rex are shown over the end credits), and director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, known for the SeaWorld documentary “Blackfish,” wisely doesn’t sentimentalize this woman-meets-dog tale. Mara plays Megan as a tough survivor who isn’t about to melt for anyone, and Rex is given a minimum of adoring good-doggy close-ups. The movie struggles when it deviates from this central relationship — Megan’s early home life seems cartoonishly awful (poor Falco does everything but snarl), and a romantic interlude with a sweet-natured fellow Marine (Ramón Rodríguez) doesn’t add up to much — and its pacing is tricky. Real lives don’t always unfold in ways that best suit movie drama, and “Megan Leavey” in its final third starts to feel a little anticlimactic; this is a two-hour movie that would probably have worked better at 90 minutes.

But it’s a quietly competent film and a good story, and in the overstuffed summer movie season, often that’s more than enough.

Movie Review ★★½   

‘Megan Leavey,’ with Kate Mara, Ramón Rodríguez, Edie Falco, Common, Tom Felton, Bradley Whitford, Will Patton, Sam Keeley. Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, from a screenplay by Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo and Tim Lovestedt. 116 minutes. Rated PG-13 for war violence, language, suggestive material, and thematic elements. Several theaters.