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The Tillman Story

The times have changed for what the name Pat Tillman stands for. He used to be known as a young football star, destined for greatness. Then he was the poster child for the War in Afghanistan, a model citizen of selflessness and honor. Now everyone knows the name because all of the government corruption centered around his death.

Documentarian Amir Bar-Lev does an incredible job with this film because he has to walk a very difficult line. Tillman never wanted the spotlight. He opped out of having a big governmental funeral and never wanted to have interviews about his decision to leave the NFL and enlist into the US Army. He believed in his country and was a brave man, but he did not want to be used for propaganda.

If that’s the case, should this movie be made? It’s still using the image of Tillman for alternative reasons, but is that a difference? The film is not called The Pat Tillman Story but The Tillman Story. Pat is the central point, but the narrative is about the Tillmans that remained.

By now, almost every knows that Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire, but that is not what was initially said. His death was used to help sell the war to the American public. Nothing was reported or questioned even with fellow soldiers testifying towards the truth. It wasn’t until Pat’s mom spent years going through the public records and trying to un-redact the classified material.

As the investigation continues, the worse it appears. It does not just look like someone made careless mistakes. Instead the film makes some serious accusations towards high government officials. Just like how Bar-Lev tackled the modern art world in My Kid Could Paint That, he uses a personal family story to bring forth legitimate questions about an institution. Every interview is incredibly fascinating and since he’s talking to Pat’s family and friends, they are incredibly passionate.

The only time the film lost its way was when they were just focusing on Pat as a person. I’m glad they debunked some of his legendary persona. Even knowing his last words doesn’t make him John Wayne. However when his family continues to praise him for many frames, it just feels like he’s being used again and then the film feels dirty.

This movie feels different than other political message movies. This is a closed story. There is no call for advocacy or even a layer of hope. This is something that has happened and it is important people know more of the facts because it could happen again.

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5 Responses to “The Tillman Story”

  1. I can’t wait to see this movie. It sounds like a good one!

  2. gwinjay says:

    I think it is time the truth is out,
    which should have been known from the start
    and a shame that we have to wait for
    the Hollywood version
    and it should feel dirty this was a dirty deal
    for all Americans, glad for this movie review
    the truth is not always pretty but its alway true

  3. Nick Rogers says:

    Good observation that the title signifies it’s not simply Pat Tillman’s story (and also avoids making it sound like a rah-rah 1940s WWII flick), and a good question of whether the film’s mere existence approaches the same opportunistic exploitation as the government, but I think Bar-Lev skirts it perfectly. For me, the depiction of Pat Tillman as presented here achieved, even in 90 minutes, a complexity that the nation or the administration’s preferred hero narrative never could – a good person, but also guarded and secretive even with those he loved. I didn’t find the Tillmans’ praise of their son, brother or husband to advance any sort of blanket anti-war agenda, either, and it felt like nothing more than appreciation for the moments they had with him and frustration that he would be so easily reduced to poster images, placards and metal monuments. One thing that’s clear from this, "No End in Sight" and "Taxi to the Dark Side": Donald Rumsfeld orchestrated some of the most vile abuses of bureaucracy and information that the White House has ever seen.

  4. Jaye Miller says:

    Should be a good movie. Tillman believed in his country and was not a fame seeker. He wanted his feelings to be kept personal and out of the limelight.

  5. Tillman never wanted the spotlight. He opped out of having a big governmental funeral and never wanted to have interviews about his decision to leave the NFL and enlist into the US Army. He believed in his country and was a brave man, but he did not want to be used for propaganda.

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