The Tillman Story is a new documentary that looks into the 2004 death of United States Army Ranger and NFL player Pat Tillman. Tillman's death is not news for most people as it received a lot of coverage based on him giving up a new contract with the Arizona Cardinals in order to serve overseas in 2002. It was first reported that Tillman was killed in enemy combat during intense fighting but as the weeks went by, it slowly leaked out that it was actually friendly fire that killed Pat. This fantastic documentary by Amir Bar-Lev looks into why Pat Tillman's story took so long to come out and how his family dealt with the Government's attempt to turn his death into a giant recruiting poster.
Pat Tillman did not want to be a hero. He had his own reasons for joining the military and just wanted to be treated like any other soldier. Unfortunately with the Government nosediving into a massively unpopular war, it seems they decided to take his unfortunate death and spin it as the tale of the All-American Hero who wanted to die for his country. People can debate all day about the necessity/evil of war and about the true meaning of a hero, but that is not what this movie is about. It is about the blatant disrespect our own Government had not only for Tillman and his family, but for us as a nation.
This is a film that will have you shaking your head in disbelief as the events unfold on the screen. It becomes tragically comical after a while as you see the way the Government scrambles to come up with reason after reason of why it took so long for the truth to come out. It's never comforting to see the people we are supposed to trust grabbing for their underwear as the lights are flicked on but it's impossible to feel any sense of sympathy for these rubes. On the flip side, the true heroes of this movie are the surviving members of Pat Tillman's life. They openly discuss details with such refreshing honesty that they come off as very real people, which ironically is sometimes lacking in Documentaries. They are not putting on a show or trying to sugar coat the things being said in the movie and for that, I respect them deeply.
Perhaps the one additional thing I wish the movie covered was how often things like this have happened in this war. How many other soliders are there whose families were lied to but because they weren't high profile enough or because their family wasn't strong enough, the truth will never come out? I understand this is just The Tillman Story, but I would love for it to spark a flood of other stories that can allow more closure for those families who felt they never got any. I'm always leery of Documentaries being too one sided and being made for the same people who already feel the same way as the filmmakers. But every so often, I catch one that not only surprises me, but is actually eye opening. I was very happy to see that The Tillman Story is one of those movies. It's a very personal tale that respects Pat Tillman for who he was and not for who the Government wanted him to be.