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Tillman Story

The Tillman Story

5.0 1
Director: Amir Bar-Lev

Cast: Josh Brolin, Dannie Tillman, Richard Tillman


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In 2002, as America was poised to go to war in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pat Tillman, a defensive back with the Arizona Cardinals, joined the United States Army, believing he had a duty to serve in a time of need even though he had signed a lucrative deal to play professional football. Tillman served a tour of duty in Iraq and was on patrol in


In 2002, as America was poised to go to war in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pat Tillman, a defensive back with the Arizona Cardinals, joined the United States Army, believing he had a duty to serve in a time of need even though he had signed a lucrative deal to play professional football. Tillman served a tour of duty in Iraq and was on patrol in Afghanistan when, on April 22, 2004, he was killed during a reconnaissance mission near the border of Pakistan. When word spread about Tillman's death, the Army issued a press release declaring he'd been shot down while trying to heroically block the fire of a band of Taliban insurgents. While the Army's story painted a glowing picture of the fallen soldier and athlete, some of the details sounded suspect to Tillman's family, and in time they began asking questions. As it happens, Tillman's parents were outspoken in their opposition to the war in Iraq, and after he had seen what was happening firsthand, so was Tillman, who had been a sharp student with an interest in politics during his college years. In time, Tillman's parents demanded an investigation into their son's death, and the testimony of several witnesses revealed that Tillman wasn't felled during an act of heroism -- his death was the result of "friendly fire" by men from his own company, shooting indiscriminately at an unknown target. Filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev examines Pat Tillman's unusual life and times, the facts about his death, how and why the military created a cover story to hide the truth, and his family's battle to bring the real story into the open in the documentary The Tillman Story, which received its world premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Josh Ralske
Amir Bar-Lev's The Tillman Story is a heartbreaking and profoundly troubling documentary filled with unanswered questions and hidden truths. Like his previous film, My Kid Could Paint That, The Tillman Story is about an investigation that, in the end, does not come to a satisfying conclusion. In this case, of course, the stakes are much higher. Pat Tillman served as a convenient symbol of American heroism and sacrifice in the wake of 9/11. For reasons he refused to make public, Tillman gave up a successful career in the NFL to join the military and fight in Afghanistan, alongside his brother Kevin. As the documentary shows, the national media loved this narrative, and when Tillman was killed in 2004, and initial reports stated that he had died while heroically rescuing his unit from a Taliban ambush, he became even more of an icon for his incredible sacrifice. Even when bits of the truth started to come out, indicating that Tillman was killed by friendly fire, all the questions raised by his needless death seemed overwhelmed by the more appealing and uncomplicated story of his heroism. Bar-Lev's film starts out with the narrative we all know, but then goes deeper into the story. While his investigation of what actually happened on the day Tillman was killed doesn't reach any solid conclusions (though there is little evidence to suggest that his unit was ever even ambushed by enemy fighters), the film looks beyond the simplistic facade of the "hero" that's been foisted on Pat Tillman, and gives the audience a deeper understanding of the complex man Tillman was. Footage of Pat's younger brother, Richard, at the memorial service, drinking a Guinness and rebuking celebrity eulogists like John McCain and Maria Shriver with a heartfelt, profanity-laced rant asking people to respect Pat's atheism, gives insight into both the essential falseness of the simplistic story we were told, and the resolve of Tillman's family to honor his memory. That resolve ends up manifesting itself in the dogged pursuit of the truth in the face of a mendacious bureaucracy by Pat's father, Pat Sr., and especially his mother, Mary "Dannie" Tillman. Bar-Lev presents us with a broad range of interesting interviewees, from family members to Pat's fellow soldiers, all of whom come across as complex personalities with their own motivation for seeing things the way they do. The filmmaker manages to restore the truth of Tillman's humanity, and to make a damning case that the military and government at the highest levels were complicit in covering up the cause of Tillman's death, so that it could be used to influence public opinion in their favor. While his investigation uncovers no significant factual clarification of how Tillman died, and while his document of the congressional hearings into the alleged cover-up end in frustration, Bar-Lev's film is still a substantial and critical document of post-9/11 America. The Tillman Story goes beyond showing how Tillman's narrative was twisted to achieve certain ends, and illustrates the eagerness of the American public to embrace a mythology rather than face the true horror of war.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Director's commentary

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Josh Brolin Narrator
Dannie Tillman Participant
Richard Tillman Participant
Patrick Tillman Participant
Mary Tillman Participant
Russell Baer Participant
Bryan O'Neal Participant
Philip Kensinger Participant
Jason Parsons Participant
Stan Goff Participant

Technical Credits
Amir Bar-Lev Director,Screenwriter
Josh Altman Editor
John Battsek Producer
Joe Bini Editor,Screenwriter
Michael Davies Executive Producer
Robert DeBitetto Executive Producer
Liz Gallacher Musical Direction/Supervision
Sean Kirby Cinematographer
Igor Martinovich Cinematographer
Mark Monroe Consultant/advisor,Screenwriter
Gabriel Rhodes Editor
Caitrin Rogers Co-producer
Andrew Ruhemann Executive Producer
Sofia Santana Associate Producer
Robert Sharenow Executive Producer
Philip Sheppard Score Composer
Molly Thompson Executive Producer


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The Tillman Story 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
GuyMontag999 More than 1 year ago
"The Tillman Story" contributes to the restoration of Pat Tillman's legacy by honoring the man, not the myth. The iconoclast, not the icon. As his mother said, "Pat would have wanted to be remembered as an individual, not as a stock figure or political prop. Pat was a real hero, not what they used him as." Amir Bar-Lev tells three stories that interweave together throughout his film: a biography of Pat Tillman (growing up, playing in the NFL, joining the Army Rangers with his brother Kevin after 9/11), how he was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 and his friendly-fire death covered up by the Army, and his family's battle to learn the truth after smokescreens were thrown in their face by the highest levels of the Army and government. "The Tillman Story" is an apt title. The film follows the outline of Mary Tillman's memoir "Boots on the Ground by Dusk" (at blurb site with a preview), many of the interviews are with members of the Tillman family (mother, father, brother, and wife) and the film is centered around their experiences in the aftermath of Pat Tillman's death. The film uses well selected film clips and interviews to portray an iconoclastic Pat Tillman not widely known to the public - a fiercely independent thinker, an avid reader, and critic of the Iraq war ("...this war is so ----ing illegal"). Pat was a remarkable man who was driven by a core of honesty and integrity, led by personal example, and lived his life intensely. See the film. Nearly everything most people think they know about Pat Tillman, his family, and the story is wrong. And the film has more humor and laughs than you would expect, especially if you don't mind a few F-bombs; the original title of the film was "I'm Pat ----ing Tillman!" which also fits: those were Pat Tillman's last words, the Tillman family drops F-bombs where appropriate (or not) and it suggests that Pat Tillman was more complex than his iconic image. In 2005, I was angered that the truth about Pat's life and death had been buried by the media and government. Tillman was enshrined as an icon while the man fell by the wayside, his family used as props at his funeral for war propaganda. Pat Tillman's family still don't have the meager consolation of knowing the full truth about his death. "The truth may be painful, but it's the truth," his mother said. "If you feel you're being lied to, you can never put it to rest." I hope the Oscar judges are also moved by "The Tillman Story". It would be great if the film was awarded Best Documentary (or at least placed in the final five). Perhaps "The Tillman Story" is not technically the "best" documentary of the bunch, but I believe it tells the best, most compelling story. The film covers a lot of ground in only 94 minutes (the film was cut from 2 1/2 hours), rushing through the material and leaving out the details. To fill in the details, I'd suggest: Gary Smith's "Remember His Name" (Sports Illustrated, 9-11-06), Mike Fish's "An Un-American Tragedy" series (2006, ESPN), Mick Brown's "Betrayal of an All-American Hero" (The Telegraph 10-07-10), Mary Tillman's book, and Jon Krakauer's "Where Men Win Glory". For blogs, see John T. Reed's "military articles" at his johntreed site) and the "The [Untold] Tillman Story" at the feralfirefighter blog.