The Tillman Story (2010)
Perhaps better than any movie I’ve ever seen, the searing documentary The Tillman Story explores the nature of shared grief and whether a family is even entitled to privacy when the world feels like it has a shared pain in their loss. This documentary focuses on former NFL star Pat Tillman who enlisted in the Army Rangers in 2002 and was killed in 2004 in the mountains of Afghanistan. He was hailed as a hero of battle, saving his men from enemy ambush, but the truth was really far less sensational but just as damaging. Tillman was killed by friendly fire, a fact the Army admitted only with their backs against the wall. Tillman was their most famous soldier and became a recruiting poster for the post-9/11 armed forces. The doc recounts Tillman’s family struggling to get a straight answer from Army officials and government goons who felt the truth could not compare to a good story. While recreating the events that lead to Tillman’s death in a mostly commanding manner, the doc’s real draw is exploring the idea of a family who has had their private mourning torn away, who are trotted around the nation to events memorializing their son, turning him into whatever symbol best serves personal agendas (conservative pundits are seen in stubborn disbelief when it comes to processing the news that Tillman read Noam Chomsky, thought the Iraq War was illegal, and was going to vote for John Kerry in 2004). What gets lost in all that patriotic maneuvering is a complicated man who didn’t want to become a myth.
Nate’s Grade: B