The Tillman Story

Movie Information

The Story: The tale of Pat Tillman, a former NFL player killed by friendly fire in Iraq and his family's struggle to keep the U.S. military from turning his death into a PR campaign. The Lowdown: A documentary that's unlikely to open any eyes, but does take a different approach to criticizing our government's involvement in Iraq.
Genre: Documentary
Director: Amir Bar-Lev (My Kid Could Paint That)
Starring: Pat Tillman, Richard Tillman, Josh Brolin (narration)
Rated: R

Like so many films and documentaries that have come out criticizing the war in Iraq, Amir Bar-Lev’s The Tillman Story is saying something that needs to be heard. But also like so many of those same films, the people who need most to listen are the least likely to, while those who will listen won’t be as shocked and outraged as Bar-Lev would like them to be.

The documentary tells the story of Pat Tillman, a former NFL player who made headlines when he gave up the millions of dollars he could’ve made playing professional football to instead enlist in the Army after the attacks of 9/11. Tillman is painted as atypical and complex, a natural athlete who’s no mere jock, but instead reads Chomsky and Emerson. He’s a man who wants to defend his country in Afghanistan, but finds invading Iraq unjust.

It’s this complexity that sets up the rest of the film. The Tillman Story documents the government’s cover-up of Pat’s death by friendly fire in Iraq—instead spinning what happened into a story of heroism and pro-war propaganda—and his family’s attempts at getting to the truth. The bulk of the movie is dedicated to the Tillman family’s refusal to allow Pat’s memory to be used for furthering an agenda, never keeping quiet or kowtowing, and fighting the U.S. military’s resistance to tell them what really happened.

The film argues that the knowledge of the cover-up went all the way to the highest levels of government—to President Bush—and that Congress and the media failed to hold the military accountable. The film wants to show how our government and military are able to deceive the public with zero consequence. The problem with this, however, is that these revelations are probably not as shocking as the film would like them to be.

I must admit my own disillusionment when it comes to politicians and military leaders, and my own jaded, dissatisfied view of the war. I was not shocked by the idea that the powers that be can be conniving and deceitful—or even by the film’s lesser point that our troops could be trigger-happy and bloodthirsty. I doubt any of this will come as a surprise to most in The Tillman Story’s target audience. Still, just because the movie isn’t all that revelatory, doesn’t mean its message shouldn’t be paid attention to. Rated R for language.


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7 thoughts on “The Tillman Story

  1. Ken Hanke

    Before any minor prophets from the provinces get in on this, let me note that The Tillman Story will only play through Thursday, Nov. 11. It will be gone — both from Asheville and from the movie listings online — on Friday. It is already gone from the print edition movie listings because those listings run from Friday, Nov. 12 through Thursday, Nov. 18.

  2. Big Al

    Good Riddance. I can’t believe Fine Arts dropped Jack Goes Boating after only one week to fill both screens with such bedwetting documentary propaganda.

  3. Ken Hanke

    I can’t believe Fine Arts dropped Jack Goes Boating after only one week to fill both screens with such bedwetting documentary propaganda.

    I can’t believe you were planning on seeing Jack Goes Boating — and I can’t believe you’re still using this to whine about what you call “bedwetting documentary propaganda,” and I’m pretty sure you’ll be just as offended by the movie that’s replacing The Tillman Story.

  4. UnaffiliatedVoter

    Last week’s feature ‘Waiting for Superman’ was quite a frightening picture of our ‘public’ schools aka government indoctrination centers.

    I cannot believe there has been no wailing from the leftwing ‘educators’ about this movie around here. Maybe it only played for two days just for a token appearance.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Well, “Bunky,” it’s pretty darn obvious that, as usual, you have no clue what you’re talking about. The picture painted by the film has zero relevance to your statement and it wasn’t “last week’s feature,” it was also the feature the week before and this week. You might do a little research before spreaing your crackpot claims. “Government indoctrination centers?” Either you haven’t seen the film (likely) or your perception is way out in left…excuse me, right field.

    You should go watch a nice John Waters movie and relax.

  6. UnaffiliatedVoter

    Excuse Me Cranky, but I DID see the movie out of concern and interest. Did you?

    Like I asked, where’s the local dissidents about this truthtelling movie?

    The teacher’s UNIONs perpetuate the government dependence agenda in the government schools.
    Sorry you dont understand it.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Excuse Me Cranky, but I DID see the movie out of concern and interest. Did you?

    If your powers of perception extended to actually reading the reviews, you’d find that I not only saw the film you’ve shoehorned into an inappropriate thread, but that I reviewed it.

    The teacher’s UNIONs perpetuate the government dependence agenda in the government schools.

    That is not at all what the film says. Sorry you can only fit things into the range of your stock right-wing talking points — whether they actually fit or not. And your bizarre reading of this movie is way, way off base.

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