Review: The Tillman Story DVD

STUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Amir Bar-Lev
RELEASE DATE: 2/1/11 | PRICE: DVD $24.96, Blu-ray $30.95
BONUSES: featurette
SPECS: R | 95 min. | Documentary | 1.77:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Even if you don’t know who Pat Tillman was, you will still likely enjoy The Tillman Story, a riveting documentary film about the corruption of government and how an “All-American story” can be sold to the American public — even if it isn’t true.

The Tillman Story movie scene

U.S. soldier Pat Tillman (l) and his brother Kevin in a scene from The Tillman Story.

Director Amir Bar-Lev (My Kid Could Paint That) recounts how Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman left behind a lucrative NFL contract to join the Army and fight in the Afghanistan War. When Pat dies, the Army tells his family that his death was the result of heroism.

But Pat’s parents dig deeper and discover that his death was really the result of friendly fire. It turns out that the government used Pat’s celebrity and enlistment in the Army to help sell the war, and a heroic death fit perfectly into this narrative.

Bar-Lev unravels the story in the style of investigative journalism, beginning with Pat’s initial enlistment and background to his parents’ search through hundreds of documents as they attempt to piece together what really happened to their son.

In the end, the family brings the case to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but all the military officials, including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, have a surprising inability to remember anything that happened. Their responses vary from “I don’t recall” to “I don’t remember” or “I don’t know.” It’s an infuriating conclusion for the Tillman family, who fought so hard for the truth about their son.

Bar-Lev also alludes to a conspiracy theory about Pat’s death, which involves the idea that the friendly fire was not accidental, but on purpose. As Pat’s disillusionment with the war grew, some in the military may have become nervous about what he might say to the public after the end of his service. In fact, Pat had scheduled a meeting with controversial writer and political activist Noam Chomsky. The validity of this theory isn’t proven either way, but it does pose an interesting question into how far the U.S. government is willing to go to further the war effort. Nevertheless, The Tillman Story still ends with a positive look at Pat’s legacy, including the Pat Tillman Foundation, which hosts an annual Pat’s Run fundraiser.

Bonus features on the DVD include a behind-the-scenes featurette about Pat Tillman.


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About Cheryl

Cheryl Cheng reviewed DVD and Blu-ray titles for Video Business magazine and has a special place in her heart for foreign and independent films.