The Tillman Story: Grave disservice

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The Tillman Storycaptures 4 Red Vines for gut wrenching family bravery.

At first blush, it would have been all too easy to stereotype Pat Tillman.  Muscular, with all-American good looks, it would have been all too easy to fill in the rest of the blanks just knowing that he was a star athlete:  jock, not too smart, fueled by ego and testosterone.  But to do that would have been to underestimate this young man and consequently, do him a grave disservice.

“The Tillman Story” has a special place in the hearts of most Arizonans.  You didn’t need to be a Sun Devil or Cardinals fan to admire the football star’s decision to chuck a multi-million dollar contract to serve our country in the wake of September 11th.  That he would die in the conflict was a tragedy.  That his death was used as a propaganda tool is a travesty.

On April 22, 2004 Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire in the unforgiving mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.  Six years later comes “The Tillman Story”, a gut wrenching documentary that is as much a scathing indictment of the military complex as it is a celebration of a remarkable man and his equally heroic family.

Using press appearances, photos, news segments and interviews with family and friends, “The Tillman Story” chronicles the life of the determined young man from big brother in a family of three boys to his family’s unrelenting search for the truth about his death and faked martyrdom.  A truth that was fought for long and hard.  When the army tries to appease the family by dumping 3,000 pages of mostly redacted reports, they thought they were done with the Tillman’s.  Most families would have collapsed in grief and quietly gone away with his honors and their memories.  But not the Tillmans.

Director Amir Bar-Lev brings together all the key players with insightful and heartbreaking interviews and every piece of hard fought for evidence of a nasty cover up.  We are taken back to the very scene of his massacre as the soldier by his side and army documents retrace what happened that fateful day.

And yet, in spite of all the charts, graphs and testimony, mystery still surrounds Pat Tillman’s death.  The questions of exactly ‘who’ and ‘why’ might never be answered even if we do know a little of the ‘how’.

What we do know is that friendly fire or not, Pat Tillman was indeed a hero of mythical proportions.  A man who was as generous and thoughtful as he was smart and strong.  A man who knew no limits when it came to caring for his team mates on the football field and the battlefield.

To stereotype such a man was to underestimate him.  To underestimate his ferocious mother and amazing family was just another tremendous blunder of the Bush administration.  When it comes to ‘Mama Grizzlies’ Ms. Palin has an awful lot to learn.


A preview of this movie was provided to me by the studio but it in no way effects my unbiased review.