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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > War > Mystery > Politics > The Tillman Story (2010/Sony DVD)

The Tillman Story (2010/Sony DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Documentary Film: B+



The Oscars for 2011 of 2010 films have a good selection of material from a truly awful year for releases, but could there be any glaring omissions?  For me, there is only one and it is in there most controversial category, Best Documentary.  The problems are still many, though I was happy to see Waiting For Superman omitted.  At the same time, I was shocked (but not surprised) to see Amir Bar-Lev’s The Tillman Story (2010) about the strange fate of a good man who was used before and after his death in terrible ways.


Most people in the country came to know Patrick Tillman as a very successful NFL football player, the kind that made the NFL great.  Very well paid, he was disturbed by the controversial 9/11/01 attacks and decided to actually walk away from his high paying job and join the Army Rangers in 2002.  It was a decision that made national news and either had people saying he was crazy for leaving such a big paying job, that he was being patriotic in a big way and/or was making a big mistake in some eyes considering some of the unanswered questions about the events of 9/11.


Conspiracy theories aside, Tillman and his brother signed on for three years and then Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld even took the highly unusual step of sending him a letter of thanks.  This was very rare.  As Tillman served, everything seemed fine, though he landed up touring in Iraq when he expected to be in Afghanistan.  Either way, it is a high risk situation and anyone who sings on knows it, though you would at least expect full disclosure if something goes wrong.


It did.


Tillman was shot and killed.  It was first reported to be enemy fire, something the media and Bush II White House used in an almost Orwellian fashion to preach about high sacrifice against the “enemy” to attract more people to join the military at a time when reports of harassment of potential recruits were circulating and an inane (even insane) ban on showing the dead arriving from overseas was on in a society that is supposed to have a free and unfettered press.  They used to call that journalism.


Then it was reported that Tillman was actually killed by friendly fire, yet this was also very odd and a whole new round of questions and stalling started to take place.  What exactly was happening here?  One red flag was how this became connected to the fraudulent Jessica Lynch fiasco, while another was simply how things were not adding up.


Rumsfeld was experimenting with small groups of troops with insufficient supplies at the worst possible time, as if any time was good, but especially after 9/11, it rang like the constant, seemingly endless bad judgment he was always displaying that will forever be summed up in the ironic quote from Bush: “Good job Rummy!” after an absolute total disaster has occurred that is now a permanent part of the lexicon.  This is as sad an example as any.


The government tried to blame someone on a lower rank for Tillman’s death, but that made no sense including to his lawyer father, who eventually wrote an angry letter to them, which suddenly got the ball rolling on an inquiry backed by leaked documents.  The rest will not make any sense unless you see this key documentary.


However, a few odd things can still be addressed as I strongly recommend this DVD (which is also on Blu-ray) and that includes a sudden attempt to give Tillman the opportunity to go back to his NFL job and be honorably discharged early.  Why?  Who would want this and how high up would such a thing have to go to even make such a situation possible?  When Tillman did not except, he was later killed.


So who wanted him out of the way?


Why was he such a threat?


Who is hiding what?



With Bush explicit about his born again Christianity, was it a problem for his administration to have a heroic man who happened not to be religious?  Were they afraid of a working-class hero without a Christo-centrist view a threat to their power?  Can higher ups like Rumsfeld not have known anything about anything despite him sending a letter to Tillman, then having sent (as it is revealed) another letter to insider(s) to “keep their eye” on Tillman?


Something is very wrong here.


As for the NFL, the fiasco at the 45th Super Bowl and possible upcoming strike show they do not have their act together.  As the documentary Blood Equity (reviewed elsewhere on this site) shows, they are not above doing great wrong and ignoring it either.


Following just the reconstruction of what might have happened, without ruining anything, none of the reconstructions of the events of that fatal day add up.  When I was done watching, I ran through every possibility and now believe what happened is even uglier than this documentary thinks.


As for Mr. Rumsfeld, he is still in denial, still cannot admit he is wrong about anything and has a whole new chance to revise history with a tour for his new book about his side of his Secretary tenure.  I have not read the book, but I wonder if Tillman even comes up.  If he is busy dodging his many errors and mistakes still not taking responsibility for anything, it give him a chance to try and make what happened with Tillman go away.


With all this stalling and lying, as ugly as this is, there is only one way left to find out the truth about how Pat Tillman was killed.  We have to assume it is some kind of political assassination or the like by someone until we can disprove it, because whatever happened, it was not just some accident that just happened (are you listening Rand Paul?).  It was the death of a good man, hero or not, who was an individualist in the real sense of the world who may have happened to be an inconvenient soldier.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 is a mix of old analog video footage, degraded video footage, various film formats, low-def digital and newer High Definition footage (especially the new interviews) offers the usual mix and plays very well.  I thought the editing was exceptional and made it all very watchable.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix combined new audio and many often monophonic audio sources and though there is no serious soundfield here per se, it too is well edited and music tends to have the best fidelity.  The only extra is a feature length audio commentary by the director, but this will likely not be the last word on the subject.


Neither will this review.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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