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Kate Mara in "Megan Leavey." Bleecker Street

Megan Leavey (Kate Mara) can’t hold down a job, so she’s stuck living with her insensitive mom (Edie Falco) and dreaming of getting away from the New York suburbs. That opportunity comes when she takes action that only emphasizes her need to change her life: Megan joins the Marines.

It’s a bold step and one that she soon comes to regret. Life as a slacker may have been boring, but life on a military base is hard — and it only gets worse when Megan is assigned the dirty job of cleaning the kennels of bomb-sniffing dogs.

One of them is a particularly problematic German shepherd. His name is Rex, and his nonstop snarling is enough to motivate Megan to keep her distance. Yet she admires the dog handlers, and eventually she gets the chance to join their ranks.

Unfortunately, the canine to whom she’s assigned is Rex. And it’s not long before Megan, who has her hands full getting on his good side, learns that both she and her four-legged colleague are headed for Iraq.

In hostile territory, Megan and Rex must rely on each other to survive. One false move will be enough to set off a homemade bomb.

“Megan Leavey” is a fact-based drama that stays far afield of commenting on the war, opting instead to concentrate on the bond between animal and human being. Working from a screenplay by Pamela Gray (“A Walk on the Moon”), Annie Mumolo (“Bridesmaids”) and Tim Lovestedt, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite (the documentary “Blackfish”) delivers a film that targets the heart and scores a bull’s-eye.

Mara, perhaps best known for her stint on the Netflix series “House of Cards,” isn’t entirely persuasive as a Marine. But she’s appealing as a young woman who takes control of her life with a little help from an unlikely companion.

If you have a soft spot for dogs, this is a love story you’ll find irresistible.

What “Megan Leavey” • Three stars out of four • Run time 1:56 • Rating PG-13 • Content Violence, language, suggestive material and thematic elements