starring: channing tatum, ethan suplee, skyler joy, and aqueela zoll
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
With a dog named Lulu by his side, Army Ranger Briggs races down the Pacific Coast to make it to a soldier's funeral on time.
Dog must have been a real passion project or something very personal for directors Reid Carolin and Channing Tatum as the film marks both their directorial debuts; surely it would be risky on one’s first foray into the job to cast a dog as a leading character? If your aim wasn’t to just make another pleasant dog film, you’d have to really feel you have something to say, which is absolutely the case with Dog: it is a wonderful film that explores trauma, loss and growth with real heart.
The film opens with Channing Tatum’s Jackson Briggs struggling to come to terms with the change in direction of his life after being severely injured while in the army. His military life provided him with meaning and direction, and when this structure and fraternity was stripped away due to a negative medical prognosis, he was left feeling stigmatised and isolated.
Determined to do anything to regain his position and standing, he manages to persuade a former superior to advocate for him through the military bureaucracy towards reinstatement, though on the condition that first Jackson agree to travel with the former service dog of a recently passed military dog handler to the man’s funeral for the benefit of his family. The challenge dawns on Jackson slowly that the dog, Lulu, is a traumatised former military dog who spent 7 years in service, and the only person she had come to tolerate is now gone forever.
Dog is essentially a road movie, and the characters Jackson and Lulu encounter on their journey provide insight into both themselves and each other. The heartwarming element of Dog is that they are rewarded for the growth they make together on their journey.
While you may be able to see elements of the story coming, the strong performance from Channing Tatum and the film’s tight control on the narrative allows for a compelling exploration of Jackson’s struggles, through this task of riding with Lulu. Without a doubt the most valued player in the production would have to be the dog trainer: Lulu is so expressive at times, scary in others and funny in between.
Dog is a charming buddy road movie that has something to say about the important things in life. A great leading performance by co-director Channing Tatum combined with strong storytelling make Dog a real winner.