Wow, what a year. This is turning out to be the slowest year for me for movies in quite a long time. Life has thrown me a couple of curveballs of late and I’ve knocked the crap out of a number of them leaving me very little time for the movie theater. The result is that when I can see a movie I really jump at the chance and hope against hope it’ll be a real winner.
My latest attempt at that outcome was to see The Tillman Story this weekend. It’s the unvarnished story of the tragic and senseless death of ex-pro football star Pat Tillman who gave up a multimillion dollar career in the NFL to join the Army Rangers after the 9/11 attacks.
The story is a pretty well-known one already so the main point of seeing an exposé of this type is to find out lots of untold elements that really give you the inside details.
The documentary focuses primarily on the tenacious energy and willpower of Tillman’s mother who’s been trying to get to the bottom of the full story since that fateful day her son was killed in Afghanistan.
We meet, among others, his mother and father, his youngest brother, his widowed wife and the Army special forces vet that helped his mother decipher all the endless information they uncovered along the way.
The story tries to explain the unique nature of Pat Tillman and how his own principles were so different from what the Army would have wanted. Tillman joined to do what he felt was right and wanted no part of being turned into a PR pawn but that’s, of course, just what the military attempted to create out of his story at every turn.
We do get reams of detail but the main problem is that 95% of it is already what anyone interested in the story knew from the news coverage of the events. There’s very little new information here and that makes for a bit of a trying experience. What new information we do get leads to an extremely unfulfilling ending.
I realize the Tillman’s couldn’t tailor the actions to provide for an upbeat of thrilling ending to a documentary but the experiences we do become privy to feel entirely unfinished. For me it felt as if this movie was released perhaps a few years too soon. The final chapters may still be written and this expose could certainly benefit from those chapters.
I also felt a sense of irony I couldn’t escape. We’re told time and again that the Tillman family wanted absolutely nothing to do with any sort of idolizing of their situation and just wanted to grieve quietly and yet here they are openly and seemingly happily recounting every detail for us.
As I said, in the end you leave the theater feeling very sorry for all involved, especially Pat Tillman, but also feeling as if you just paid to watch a compressed presentation of news we already knew.