Movie Review – The Tillman Story

Each war within our nation’s history has spawned myriad movies — including the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Films to date have taken the form of both documentaries as well as fictional stories, and some have effectively conveyed the horrors of war while others have tanked.  The Tillman Story — newly released in theaters now — will surely take its place among the best war movies since 9/11, if not all time.  This movie combines investigative journalism along with weaving a compelling story — one which will live as a tribute to one of the greatest heroes of our time.

Most of you are probably already aware of the basic story of Pat Tillman.  A highly paid NFL star, Tillman gave it all up in order to enlist in the Army — along with his brother — a short time after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  While on patrol during April of 2004 in Afghanistan, Tillman was tragically killed.  His untimely death was made even more difficult to swallow once details emerged surrounding the circumstances of Tillman’s death.  He was killed by friendly fire — or “fratricide” as the film’s creator prefers.  The Pentagon was less than forthcoming with the accurate details regarding Tillman’s killing.  Desiring to create a war hero which could be used for propaganda purposes, the powers that be in the army obfuscated the truth about this tragic incident and indicated that Tillman was killed in action by enemy troops.

As opposed to being the uber-patriotic backer of the war as the Pentagon portrayed, Tillman had become disenchanted with America’s role in Iraq and Afghanistan years before his death.  Although initially gung-ho when he first enlisted, Tillman had grown to be disillusioned with the often contradictory and self-defeating policies crafted by the desk jockeys within the E-Ring at the Pentagon.  Ironically, the roots of his skepticism were formed when he participated in the rescue of Jessica Lynch in Baghdad.  This incident was similarly used for propaganda purposes, and the truth became the biggest casualty which eerily foretold Tillman’s own future.

Tillman’s questioning of the wars led him to voraciously read critics of the war including even the most anti-military commentators such as Noam Chomsky.  The movie seeks to delve into the real Pat Tillman and show the world who he truly was and what really motivated him.  The film also depicts the bitter battle that ensued between Tillman’s family and the Army resulting from his family’s quest for the truth surrounding what really happened that night on that rocky outcrop.  The Tillman Story conveys his family’s pain along with the larger societal and political issues surrounding his death with both poignancy and intensity.  This is not your typical “war movie”, and it is one that can have appeal to both genders and viewers of all ages.

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