Movies

The Tillman Story

The Tillman Story featured image

Reviewed by Marc Glassman

The Tillman Story
Amit Bar-Levy, director
Documentary feature w/Patrick Daniel “Pat” Tillman, Richard Tillman, Mary “Dannie” Tillman, Patrick Kevin Tillman (father), Bryan O’Neal

Pat Tillman is the most famous American war casualty of the current conflict in Afghanistan. A former NFL and college all-star football player, he turned down a multi-million dollar contract in the wake of 9/11 and enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private. Less than two years later, he was dead, shot in the head while on patrol in the mountains of Afghanistan.

What happened after his death was scandalous. Tillman was given the Silver Star, upgraded to corporal and sent home accompanied by his brother Kevin, who was also serving in Afghanistan, and another war buddy. At the nationally televised funeral, John McCain spoke as did a US General, praising the ex-football star as a hero, who died a warrior’s death.

There was only one problem with that story: it was a complete lie and the Army knew it. As the new feature documentary The Tillman Story demonstrates, the ex-footballer had died in friendly fire. Rather than confronting Afghanis, he was gesticulating to his fellow American soldiers to stop firing at “Pat [email protected]#*ing Tillman.” The Army admitted to the accusation of friendly fire soon after Tillman’s death—but weeks after the TV funeral had been seen by millions of Americans.

Structured like a detective story, this tough new doc shows Tillman on the playing field and then at his funeral. Having established his reputation, doc director Amit Bar-Levy slowly reveals the truth about Tillman’s demise. Accompanying him on this journey are Pat’s feisty mom “Dannie” who spent years finding out what really had happened to her son; her ex-husband, lawyer Patrick Kevin Tillman, who wrote a letter concluding “F%*k You” to the Army (which actually forced the investigation that did produce many of the facts regarding his son’s death); grieving brother Richard Tillman and others.

After years of pressure, the Army finally admitted to their deliberate cover-up. One three star general had a star removed, months after he’d already retired. Undaunted, the Tillmans forced a congressional investigation—which revealed nothing more.

This doc reveals the complex character that was Pat Tillman. He was an agnostic who had read the Bible and the Koran. Tillman was looking forward to meeting Chomsky—but refused to leave the military until his three year tour of duty was up. He was a jock who was a smart, loyal American but didn’t avoid the complexities of life.

You get a sense of Tillman—and what the world is missing because of his pointless demise. The Tillman Story is a strong doc, well worth seeing.

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