The Tillman Story (Amir Bar-Lev, 2010): USA
Reviewed by Byron Potau. Viewed at Regal Cinemas as part of the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival.
Anyone who watches ESPN will be familiar with most of the events of The Tillman Story. Others may have caught part of it on their regular news channels as it was very big news. For those that know nothing of Pat Tillman this film will likely have a greater impact than for those for which this film is simply filling in the gaps of what they already know.
Professional football player for the Arizona Cardinals, Pat Tillman gives up a multimillion dollar contract to serve his country after the events of 9/11. The press praise Pat as a hero for his unselfishness, but Pat would just as soon be treated like everyone else. When it is reported that Pat is killed in a fire fight in Afghanistan the press again praise Pat for making the ultimate sacrifice for his country. However, it comes out over the next several months that Pat was actually killed by friendly fire and there was a high level cover up by the government and the military who used Pat’s enlistment, image, and death to rally support for their war.
The film distinguishes itself from just compiling what is already public knowledge from the news stories by adding depth to the portrayal of Pat Tillman. His disillusionment with the war, his atheism, and his sense of obligation to his commitments are all addressed and well developed.
The film also brings into the foreground the tremendous role Pat’s family, particularly his mother, Dannie, had in investigating Pat’s death and uncovering the truth, ultimately unraveling the government’s attempts to cover up the real cause of Pat’s death.
As cinema it is a compelling story, but the fact that many of the story’s most damaging points are already common knowledge does detract from the film’s impact. It will have its most impact on those who have no familiarity with Pat Tillman and his death. As the years go on the film may prove to age better, as Pat’s story is forgotten. For now it is does a good job of expanding on and clarifying Pat’s personality and motives, and revealing little known details of the investigation which sheds light on yet another blight on the heavily criticized Bush Administration.