Last week I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the newly released movie Max from Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures. Max follows the journey of a military working dog (MWD) whose U.S. Marine handler Kyle Wincott loses his life in Afghanistan. Traumatized, Max is adopted by Kyle’s family. Max and Kyle’s brother Justin bond and begin a journey of healing. As I said in my preview post, I usually avoid movies involving animals, but I am so happy I didn’t avoid Max. Yes, it was sad, and I did cry. A lot. I wasn’t alone. The story that unfolded in this movie moved everyone I spoke to after the screening.
It wasn’t all sadness and tears, though. Max is full of action and humor, while telling a story that educates about the effects of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) on this incredible animal who had served the USA and his handler with all of his heart.
In the film, Max, a Belgian Malinois, is a specialized search dog. A MWD (Military Working Dog) with this specific skill is trained to go 300 yards ahead of his handler off leash. Animal coordinator and trainer Mark Forbes and his team trained, handled, and cared for the dogs’ needs. Mark Forbes and his team worked for a month on just the basics to train the dogs to work off leash like a MWD.
Max was portrayed by Carlos, a Belgian Malinois born in 2012 in Hawesville, Kentucky at Liberty Dog Camp. Carlos was a very loving and curious puppy, yet also very focused. Because of this trait he was named Carlos Hatchcock, the Vietnam War sniper.
Pax, Jagger, Dude, Chaos, and Pilot were Carlos’s stunt doubles in the film due to their individual strengths, and to relieve another dog for rest or safety.
At a couple of points on the film, Max protects his family from two Rottweilers, Draco (portrayed by Atlas) and Loki (portrayed by Odin,) who are owned and trained to protect their gang leader owners. I was a bit disturbed by these scenes due to the violence in the fights between Max and Draco. These scenes were very realistic unsettling, but it is important to remember a lot of it is movie magic. I had to remind myself of that a few times. I work with dogs and know first-hand how vicious play can sometimes look and sound.
Mark Forbes describes the scene in which Max is fighting the gang-owned Rotweillers to protect Justin and his family as “play fighting” between Pilot, the female Malinois and Odin, the Rottweiler, who simulated the fighting…
“Pilot was about 9 months old and Odin was about a year-and-a-half old, and they just loved each other and loved to play. Dogs tussle when they play; they roll around and are expressive with their teeth and mouth. If you lay in the right sound effects to that, it looks and sounds like a ferocious dog fight, when in reality they are just doing what they do in the dog run every day. Having fun.”
If you’re looking for a film to entertain your family, I recommend Max. It is entertaining, heartwarming, humorous, and broadens the awareness of what military working dogs do for our country. Check out Max in a theater near you!