The Tillman Story Review
By David Kempler
Tears for the Tillman
First, let's look at the facts of what happened to Pat Tillman, a very successful NFL player. While earning megabucks as a defensive back in the NFL, Tillman felt an overpowering need to enlist in America's armed forces, to fight for his country, as a result of the 9/11 attack. While overseas, he was killed in action. He was celebrated and held up as an emblem of everything that is right about America, and man as a species. Tributes of admiration gushed into our homes from our television sets. Many tears were shed, justifiably.
Later on, word started leaking out that perhaps the story as presented to us by both our government and media, was a couple of clicks below the truth. The government, as presented by director Amir Bar-Lev, conceived of the lie and put it out there. The media, failing once again, by parroting what they were told, rather than investigating independently, really blew it. Bar-Lev constructs the whole story for us and lays out the utterly gruesome details. His "Tillman Story" is a negative tribute to the evils of government and the gross inabilities of what is supposedly an independent media.
Bar-Lev focuses on Tillman's mother, and her quest to uncover the truth about what really happened to her son. It turns out that the entire situation was manipulated and choreographed by those in power. This leaves us with the inevitable conclusion that to feel anything besides disgust for those that perpetuated the lies is to cover your ears and eyes and scream incoherently into a great abyss. It all sounds great, doesn't it?
And yet, it isn't a great film, and that's a shame. It is a good watch, however, except for when Bar-Lev lingers too long on football details, or endless reminders of Pat as a boy. We get it after the first few examples. Bar-Lev drags it out, presumably to turn what would be a great short film into a good, full-length one. When "The Tillman Story" is good, it is exceptionally so. When it wanders off course, it is still okay, but not much more than that. Overall, definitely worth it, but I couldn't help but wonder how great it could have been, if it had been tightened up a bit.