Under Review: ‘The Tillman Story’


I won’t even pretend to know anything about politics. Simple as that – I refuse to embarrass myself and treat my readers like idiots. But although I have this inescapable belief (or perhaps insecurity) that my follow writer Bev Questad would make much more formidable political opinions and thus craft a much stronger review in that aspect, I’m not giving up, because though I do not have much experience in the actual science of politics, I do consider myself competently knowledgeable in the psychological aspect behind the actions and people in politics and that’s what everything (money, power, etc.) ultimately revolves around. It’s the “human equation,” and it’s the firm belief that politics are more than just cold, hard facts that empowers me to write a review for “The Tillman Story,” which exposes the manipulation behind the death of Pat Tillman, who willingly gave up a multi-million dollar football contract in order to serve his country.

But I’m going to go at a slow and steady pace and thus before getting into the actual craftsmanship of the film, I’ll talk about a couple of points that the film made along with my general opinion of the entire fiasco surrounding the war – now beware, because I’m openly cynical and not afraid to cause controversy and let me just say this; I don’t care if you think I’m “un-American” and unpatriotic because honestly, I’m not one of Uncle Sam’s poster children, but guess what? You aren’t either.

Every war is financed by the support of its people. How do you ensure support? The answer is quite simple – propaganda and our enemies use religion in this form. For them, killing in the name of a higher power, which of course is God, is a respectable deed. But notice how I used the word “enemy,” I did that quite intentional actually, not because I don’t see them as human beings, but instead I did it to prove a point. In a way, as Dave Mustaine would put it, the newest form of slavery is keeping us stupid and one of the ways we’re kept oblivious to the horrors of war is by being fed bite-sized pieces of information – most of which consists of black-and-white messages, and this is why Tillman’s death was manipulated.

There is a simple equation we are taught:

    Americans and all American policies = Good.

    Muslims = Bad.

It’s quite obvious how Tillman’s death would disrupt this formula. The story officials told the public about Tillman’s death was that he was killed by enemy fire. But, in actuality, Tillman was killed by his own squad members. All the officials, even leading up to George W. Bush, knew about this fact, but decided to disobey a dead man’s wish, which was to keep his death private if it were to happen. Tillman became the pinnacle of American heroism and thus an example for any would-be soldiers.

It’s a shame Tillman died, but I did disagree with director Amir Bar-Lev’s constant referencing of Tillman’s would-be football career. On one hand, Bar-Lev shuns the public for making Tillman an idol for the simple fact that he was making millions of dollars, but on the other, he does the same thing in “The Tillman Story.”

The film is beautifully paced and uses archival footage excellently, plus it is narrated by Josh Brolin, who later at the question and answer session that I attended, joked about being willing to “whore” himself as much as possible for this film to get recognized. The film also doesn’t come off as preachy or self-righteous and instead presents itself as a simple case of a.) Present problem b.) Give sufficient evidence. This is what makes the film flourish.

Even for a cynic like me, “The Tillman Story” is moving. I don’t necessarily agree with the fact that Tillman is idolized as a hero, considering he did nothing monumental in the war itself, and the fact that he died is a simple war reality, but the film does earn a special place in my heart for being a political documentary that not only captured my interest but also agreed with my views.

(Editor’s note: It’s Just Movies extends a special note of thanks to James Brogan.)

. . .

Follow Mariusz Zubrowski on Twitter at

2 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Bev Questad #

    Before I ever saw the reference to me your film title had me impressed. Your cynicism is right on – wars ironically financed by the support of the people – even if we vehemently disagree. Great reference to Mustaine.
    Don’t you wonder how Tillman would react to this film and the whole Iraq-Afghan. situation if he could communicate now from his new perspective?

  2. Rusty #

    I hope to check this out.

1 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Under Review: 'The Tillman Story' -- 14 08 10