Movie Review: The Tillman Story

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“The Tillman Story,” an in depth look at just how far the government will go to cover something up, doesn’t have an elaborate script, is not theatrical and lacks any type of special effects. While it may not be Hollywood’s definition of exciting, it is one of the most intriguing movies I’ve seen this year.

Directed by Amir Bar-Lev, “The Tillman Story” is a documentary about the life and death of Pat Tillman and how the government lied to Tillman’s family about the details of his death. The movie is comprised of interviews, home movies and personal photos. It follows the Tillman family as they try to piece together what actually happened to Pat and why the government denied them the truth.

Bar-Lev introduces Tillman as an ordinary guy. Well, as ordinary as a college-athlete-turned-NFL-football-star could be. He was born in 1976 in San Jose and attended Leland High School. He impressed college recruiters during high school and was offered a scholarship to play football at Arizona State University. At 5 feet, 11 inches, Tillman was considered small for a linebacker, but excelled during his four years at ASU both athletically and academically. He graduated with a 3.84 GPA and a bachelor’s degree in marketing. In the 1998 National Football League Draft, Tillman was offered a safety position on the Arizona Cardinals.

Following the 2001 terrorist attacks, Tillman felt compelled to do something more. His family had a history of military enlistments, and this led he and his brother, Kevin, to enlist in the U.S. Army. Tillman had been offered a $3.6 million, three-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals, but turned down the maroon and white jersey for a shaved head and a U.S. Army uniform.

On April 22, 2004, Pat Tillman was killed. The news of a fallen soldier spread through the United States like wildfire. Pat’s family and wife were informed that their beloved son, brother and husband had died. However, the details that the U.S. government gave the family were as far from the truth as possible. “The Tillman Story”comes alive during this part of the movie. The director works with interviews and news coverage to build suspense around the actions of the government and the grieving period of a wounded family.

Footage from Tillman’s funeral and ceremonies held in his honor evoked an emotional reaction from the audience. For those who don’t know much about Tillman’s story, or are too young to remember what happened, “The Tillman Story”reveals an ugly side of government involvement in military deaths. While Pat Tillman died six years ago, his family is still searching for closure and explanations. The documentary chronicles the emotional rollercoaster ride that the Tillman family can’t seem to get off of, and Bar-Lev does a beautiful job of piecing everything together into a powerful political film.                 

Possibly the best documentary I’ve ever seen, “The Tillman Story”is a must-see for sports fans and political activists alike. Pat Tillman was an ordinary guy, but this documentary is extraordinary.

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