The Tillman Story

The Tillman Story ***

No matter what your politics, you will be angered by this documentary about the famous NFL star who quit the Arizona Cardinals after 9/11 and enlisted in the Army. You probably already know the basics. He became a Ranger, was sent to Iraq and then to Afghanistan. After he was killed there, first reports said he’d been in a firefight with the enemy. But when his family pressed for details, they learned that his death was a result of friendly fire.

It would be easy enough for a filmmaker to stop at that point and simply indict the military and the government. There’s plenty of blame to go around in that part, when finally, the various officials are called before a congressional committee and say repeatedly that they “can’t recall” when they learned the real circumstances of the engagement. But director Amir Bar-Lev has larger ambitions. He’s interested in the creation of heroes and the role that those heroes play in the overall narrative of a war, and how people react to it. Finally, though, the focus of his film is on the Tillman family. They were the ones who knew the real Pat Tillman, not the football player, not the soldier, not the symbol of anything.

Incredibly, this involving, passionate film was not nominated for an Oscar.

(94 min. Rated R for language and violence.)

Books by Mike Mayo