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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


The Tillman Story
Directed by Amir Bar-Lev
Sony Pictures 08/10 DVD/VHS Documentary
R - language

Pat Tillman was a star football player at Arizona State University who graduated summa cum laude in 1997. He was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals and broke the record for the most number of tackles in his rookie season in the NFL. Then in 2002, Tillman and his brother signed a three year commitment with the Army. When Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush's Secretary of Defense, heard that this young and talented pro-football star had given up a multi-million dollar contract to join the Army Rangers, he sent him a congratulations letter thanking him for serving his country. Tillman was sent to Iraq and then in 2004 was deployed to Afghanistan. On April 22, 2004, the military reported that he was killed during an ambush by the Taliban while trying to save the lives of his comrades. The president hailed his act of heroism and the national media touted him as an outstanding patriot. Tillman was awarded a posthumous Silver Star, America's third highest military decoration.

The Tillman Story presents a troubling account of the concerted military cover-up surrounding the death of this pro-football star and the crusade, conducted by his mother, to uncover the truth. Amir Bar-Lev (My Kid Could Paint That) directs this scathing documentary exposing the Bush Administration's deception of both the Tillman family and the American people. Their unethical actions were part of an effort to gain widespread support for the war in Iraq at a time when the "shock and awe" of the early U.S. bombing of Tehran had faded from the minds of citizens.

Dannie Tillman, a special education teacher at the time of Pat's death, discovered that her son was a victim of "fratricide," that he was killed by the trigger-happy shots of his own men who were aching to get into a firefight with the enemy. To get to this truth, Tillman's family plowed through 3,000 pages of documents provided by the Army with certain names and places redacted with a black marker. Eventually, Dannie and Pat's brother Kevin testify at a Congressional hearing about the cover-up. A handful of prominent generals hem and haw about their memory of receiving a memo to make sure that the public did not find out about Tillman's death by friendly fire. The military brass once again avert any accountability for their unethical handling of Tillman's senseless death. And once again, lying trumps truth in the name of patriotism.

Special features on the DVD include a look behind the scenes: "Pat Tillman, The Man, The Mission, The Legacy."


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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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• "There are no simple answers in this story. It's human nature to seek the 'clear cut good guys and bad guys' . . . , but the life and death of Pat Tillman challenges us to see the world differently," says The Tillman Story director Amir Bar-Lev.
Read the complete interview.
• See reviews of other films about war
• See our collection of resources for practicing Spiritual Literacy in Wartime
• Sign up for our e-course (available on-demand) on Practicing Spirituality with Peacemakers

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