Tillman Story, The

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3

Content: -2

Narrated by Josh Brolin, this documentary from the Weinstein Company was written by Amir Bar-Lev, Joe Bini, and Mark Monroe, and directed by Amir Bar-Lev.

FILM SYNOPSIS:† When Pat Tillman gave up his professional football career to join the Army Rangers in 2002, he became an instant symbol of patriotic fervor an unflinching duty. But when the government tried to turn his death into propaganda, Tillmanís family objected. †From her home in Northern California, Patís mother, Dannie Tillman, led the familyís crusade to reveal the truth beneath the mythology of their sonís life and death.

PREVIEW REVIEW:† On one hand, I realize that a soldier accepts the fact that he is a pawn.† He does exactly what his commanders command and he is expendable for a greater cause.† On the other hand, from the facts presented in this engrossing documentary, itís hard to defend the political strategy used to cover up this case.† The military/government gave Tillman the Silver Star posthumously and declared to his family that he died leading a charge. The truth: he was killed by friendly fire and had not done anything sacrificial deserving the second highest honor our nation can bestow.

Pat Tillman was heroic simply for leaving a lucrative career in order to participate in a greater cause.† A solider is just as heroic if killed by friendly fire as when he sacrifices his own life for others. Heís left his world comparative safety and comfort behind for one where his life is endangered constantly.† Though he may have selfish motives over patriotic ones, still, itís a sacrifice.† Why then must political leaders spin the facts?† And how arrogant are they when our nationís leaders think the truth can be forever suppressed?

I assume those who did the spinning reasoned that if a soldier is killed by his own side, it brings an element of bizarre cartoonishness to the war and paints the battlers with an incompetent wash.† I can see how politicians would be tempted to turn legend into fact.† If the scenario can be spun as a gung-ho legend, they must be hopeful that it will rally the troops and bolster the home front.† But political lies eventually get outed.† And when done by political leaders, those deceptions cause mistrust and cynicism among the people.† We all pay a price when our leaders lie to us.

As to the film, while it reveals the familyís characteristics (some good, some not so Ė itís not like the government painted Tillman in a shameful light, so whatís the real beef?), it best conveys the power wielded by a documentarian with an agenda.† Writer/director Amir Bar-Lev, who made the documentary Fighter back in 2001, feels for the Tillman family, yet I couldnít help but think that he was using them for his own purposes.† Whatever the familyís reasoning, Bar-Levís agenda is clearly to portray the Bush administration in a smarmy light. Iím not saying that administration doesnít deserve it; Iím just saying that was the filmmakerís agenda.† And heís pretty good at it.

The filmmaker uses footage of the family receiving Tillmanís retired jersey while a stadium full of patriotic football fans salute his sacrifice.† Suddenly, thereís the appearance of scantily clad professional cheerleaders cajoling the stands with plastic smiles and lustful hip wiggles only a few feet away from the grieving family.† It was a tacky ending to an emotion-filled ceremony. I suspect the scene remained in the exposť in order to foreshadow the callow behavior of both military leaders and the Bush cabinet members Bar-Lev was about to incriminate.

Bar-Lev understands that a picture is worth a thousand words and in his film he manages to get shots of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others in as unflattering a light as possible, making them all seem like heartless schemers.

Perhaps the saddest element of the production is the declaration that Pat Tillman did not believe in God.† At the soldierís memorial service, Patís younger brother got up, Guinness Stout in hand (beer at a memorial service?), and declared that while he appreciated the spiritual politeness of the crowd, his brother didnít believe in God, that when you were dead, that was it.

Further into the story, we learn from another soldier that during Tillmanís final combat, he instructed his fellow soldier not to pray, but to concentrate.† Moments later, Tillman was dead.† Sadly, concentration didnít get him through the deadly confrontation.† I can only surmise that Tillman never called out to God for forgiveness and acceptance. While the family is angry about the governmentís attempt to use their son to aid the war effort, I was disheartened by the thought that this good man went out of this life without Christ in his heart.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
The Weinstein Company

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Around 25 uses of the f-word and nine other obscenities.

Profanity: None

Violence: Brief combat scenes.

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Some drinking

Other: None

Running Time: 94 minutes
Intended Audience: Older teens and adults

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.