They say that not all superheroes wear capes. A true statement.
It could also be said that not all superheroes have two legs. Also a true statement.
Metro-Goldwyn Meyer (MGM) and FilmNation Entertainment recently released a dramatic comedy, Directed by Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin, aptly titled ‘Dog’. The film follows an Army Ranger, Jackson Briggs (Tatum) as he chauffeurs a fallen comrade’s Military Working Dog, a Belgian Malinois named Lulu, to his funeral in Arizona. Throughout the film, we see both Briggs and Lulu struggle with their PTSD together, and overcome their own personal challenges along the journey.
To be quite honest, when I initially heard about this upcoming film, I was a little nervous. After Warner Bros. released the 2015 film ‘Max’, the demand for the Belgian Malinois breed skyrocketed. Many viewers saw this incredibly gifted dog as a ‘gimmie’, and many flocked to breeders, demanding their own puppy. Not too soon after, many shelters became overwhelmed with the amount of Belgian Malinois that were surrendered. Now, seven years later, I had concerns that this new film would cause a repeat, and many Belgian Malinois would not get to live out their full potential given the demanding nature of the breed.
Let’s start out first and foremost with the movie itself. I absolutely loved this film. As a filmmaker, I appreciated every aspect of this picture. It currently sits with a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes, which I myself, think is rather low for this film. When viewing a film, I look for more than just a good story. I value deep connections between characters, how scenes are shot, and in a nutshell, how the director illustrates a work of art. While some may consider this a cheesy love drama between a man and his dog, I thought it was a beautiful story. Sure, between a handler and a dog. But also, between two damaged souls.
Briggs, an Army Ranger, suffers from complex PTSD. Being an Army Veteran myself, this is a condition that many suffer from. Twenty two Veterans commit suicide daily, mostly as a result of PTSD. (“Shell shock” was an intellectual forerunner to PTSD in World War One, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition, list 17 symptoms.) Channing’s portrayal as a combat veteran, who suffers from the condition was spot on, and his performance was phenomenal. Sure, there were cute tags of ‘military humor’ that we all throw at each other, but Tatum reached deeper than that. He captured the true nature of a tortured soul. A soul scarred by war.
Then there is Lulu, the Belgian Malinois who was attached to a Ranger Battalion. For those who are unfamiliar with the work that these Military Working Dogs (MWDs) do, these dogs go through immense training to prepare them for the harshest conditions and most intense situations. They are bred and trained for one purpose – to protect their handler and Soldiers at any cost. Many dogs also suffer from PTSD, especially those that are in such an insane line of work like Lulu. In the film, she was played by three different Malinois (Lana, Britta and Zuza), all of whom performed wonderfully.
I want to keep this review spoiler-free, so I’ll say this: It’s definitely worth the watch. I fell in love with this movie, and I am quite impressed with how well the film was written. The writers conducted thorough research to find information not only surrounding MWDs, but the Malinois breed specifically. The US Military has used multiple dog breeds (German Shepherds, Dobermans, Labrador Retrievers, Belgian Malinois) but of late, the most notable one has become the Belgian Malinois. Mostly due to their intense drive, prolonged sense to complete a mission, their unconditional loyalty, and their small but muscular frame.
I have been reading a lot of interviews and reviews surrounding this film, and I will say, I am very proud for the cast and crew, especially Channing Tatum, for coming out and discussing the reality and challenges of owning the breed. To which I can attest.
Allow me to elaborate – I have a male German Shepherd and Two Belgian Malinois. Yes, you read that correctly, I have two of these dogs.
Many might call Raymond and I crazy for owning two of these creatures. Our female, Marley, and our male, Loki. Both of which, are rescues. As much as I love these two, they require a heck of a lot of work. I like to joke around and say that Marley is mentally a Golden Retriever, mostly because she is so loving of other people and dogs, but it’s important to keep in mind the demand for the breed. We have to ensure there are hours dedicated to training her every day to keep her occupied, regardless of how much she loves people or other dogs. Our male, Loki, is very similar to Lulu in the film.
He is distrusting of most people, and if I don’t work him, he has the tendency to be destructive. Very destructive. He demands to be worked. I know that they both love Raymond and I to pieces, but again we must bear in mind, that these dogs are not your typical house pet. Let me say that again: These dogs are not your typical house pet! If not given the proper dedication and training: They will mouth you (and this isn’t your little puppy bite, it actually hurts), They will jump on your face when you are sleeping. They will dig a tunnel to Narnia in your backyard. They will turn your kitchen into a parkour course. Your car will be covered in claw marks from them jumping around due to anxiety/excitement. There is a reason why the media and owners refer to them as ‘Malligators’ or ‘Malociraptors’. Loki, appropriately named after the God of Mischief, knows how to quickly unlock deadbolts and Marley knows how to get up on top of the refrigerator. I might add, that both evil-doings are executed in milliseconds. And if you try to correct them when they aren’t in the mood to be corrected, they’ll tear the door off the oven.
If you are looking to enjoy your retirement, sitting at home and watching Netflix or attending cooking classes on your Thursday evenings, this is not the breed for you. If you don’t have the time to properly socialize them from the moment they are in your care, you will find yourself asking for trouble down the road. The dogs are incredibly intelligent, and when properly trained, can accomplish almost anything that they set their minds to do. Raymond and I get stopped every time we are walking them and people will ask us ‘Is that a German Shepherd’ or ‘What kind of dog is that?’, and we explain the breed to them. Almost every single time the conversation ends with ‘Go to youtube and search for Belgian Malinois, you’ll find yourself immersed in the videos for hours’; and this is very true. There are many times I find myself watching some of these K9 heroes thinking ‘these are more than just dogs’. Because anyone who owns one will tell you, they absolutely are.
These dogs beg for a job, and they long for a responsibility. Similar to my German Shepherd, but on steroids. However – if you have the time and commitment to give to these magnificent animals, they can be the best thing that ever came into your life. They will love you unconditionally and do whatever it is you ask of them. Currently, as I’m writing this, Loki is laying under my chair after a hard day’s work, laying on my feet. (If I shift away from him, he wakes up and repositions himself so he’s touching my feet again.)
The Belgian Malinois is a fairly ‘newer’ breed, unlike their relatives, the German and Dutch Shepherds, who have been around and well-known for decades. Given their sleek frame and drive to succeed and impress, they truly are a remarkable breed. I am very happy that ‘Hollywood’ is bringing around more awareness of them, and ‘Dog’ did the breed justice. They didn’t take the project and make it out to be just a ‘fun’ film. They really did everything right with this one.
In short – I can say with conviction, this film impressed me with how much it puts into perspective the reality of owning a Belgian Malinois. Especially one with training like LuLu, and like ours. ‘Dog’ is a step up from ‘Max’. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the movie ‘Max’. It had a consistent feel good, military and family vibe to it. But to me, it still leans to the side of ‘fairy tale’ – and, sometimes we need films like that. I still hold a place in my heart for ‘Max’, and I always will. I am just very, very pleased with ‘Dog’ overall, and it was clear that Tatum and the rest of the production team did their research and spent a lot of time dedicated to learning about the breed, about the military working dog program, and everything in between.
I wholeheartedly believe if you haven’t seen the film, you should definitely give it a chance. I left the movie theater with an immense feeling of satisfaction, and I would absolutely see it again. My own personal critique of the film, would have been a few of the military terms, uniforms and standards. There were a few discrepancies that a civilian wouldn’t notice, but it wasn’t anything that took away from the meaning of the film. After serving for 13 years, I can be the world’s worst critic when it comes to those “little details.”
Jokingly referred to as “part German Shepherd, part velociraptor, part Red Bull and part teddybear”, the Malinois might just be the “Ferrari of canines”, but the unexpected, high-maintenance ownership isn’t for everyone. (I’m trying to remember how many destroyed oven doors, car seats and ceiling fans I’ve had to replace recently…) In conclusion, if you are seriously considering a Belgian Malinois for a pet – please do your research. Watch a few documentaries, consult with a local trainer, read books and research breeders before considering bringing this stunning dog into your life. In fact, maybe visit a few shelters and Malinois rescues. Like most shelter dogs, Malinois are truly amazing dogs – they just require the proper training.
Well done, Tatum and Carolin!
Jules Rating: 8.8/10
Julia recently published her first novel, titled; Anomic. She is currently co-authoring a novel called ‘Snow Falls’. She has a B.A in Communications with concentrations in Professional Writing and Public Relations. She is also in the United States Army Reserves as a Military Police Officer, and is currently in the process of going back to school for her Masters Degree in Business. When she isn’t writing, she is co-owner of a film production studio called ‘Valentine Productions LLC’ and she frequently spends her weekends acting in films, or being a stuntwoman.