12 February 2011 | bobzmcishl
An American Tragedy
I would have given this documentary a 10 except for the fact I had already read Krakauers book "Where Men Win Glory" which goes into greater detail on exactly what happened that fateful day when Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire. The book also covers much more of what shaped Pat Tillman in his years growing up in New Almaden, California. The movie does hit you with more of an emotional punch than the book does, because it compacts the idiocy into 90 minutes rather than over the course of a week to read the story. Both will leave you very angry at our government.
The Tillman Story paints a picture of an All-American boy who doesn't exactly fit the mold. He isn't a Christian; in fact he is an atheist. He is not a dumb jock, but a very intelligent young man who reads Norm Chomsky, a progressive intellect. He is not arrogant but caring. He married his childhood sweetheart. He enlisted in the Army Rangers after 9/11, along with his younger brother. The movie covers all of this and does it very well. The movie stands out for contrasting Pat Tillman who was no flag pin patriot, with all of the flag waving leadership that was looking for hero's in order to promote the war effort. They started with Jessica Lynch which is portrayed at the start of the film as just a propaganda stunt to cheer up the home front. Tillman became disillusioned after that and made the comment that the Iraq war was "probably illegal as hell". He enlisted to fight in Afghanistan not Iraq, but when he had the opportunity after his Iraq tour to get out of the Army, and play football again, he turned it down in order to honor his commitment.
Where the movie doesn't get it quite right is in giving the audience a better perspective just how badly mistaken the Rangers were in shooting at Tillman. They weren't more than 20 yards away from him when he was shot. The book goes into great detail on this, whereas the documentary tries to show it but it doesn't jump out at you.
The movie is at its most persuasive in exposing how ridiculous the higher up general's were in explaining away why they were not informed about what happened. "We knew nothing" is just as alive in the American army as it was in Germany in WWII.
This is a documentary that should be watched by all American's but of course it won't. It presents too many uncomfortable truths about our military, our leaders, our American culture, and our attitudes. We want nice tidy endings like in the movies but in real life our hero's aren't all like John Wayne. They are better actually. Wayne never even served in World War II. What a contrast. Tillman is the guy you would really want in the foxhole next to yours. He was a true leader and a true patriot and he had a wonderful family and a wonderful wife. They aren't very many Pat Tillman's in our country but we were fortunate to have him if only for a short time. It is too bad he was so ill served by his commanders.