Search form

MOVIE REVIEW: The Tillman Story

A powerful documentary about an American hero

The Tillman Story: Rates a B+.
Courtesy photo

I thought The Tillman Story was a great documentary.

I wasn’t one of the ones that sang Pat Tillman’s praises initially.

When he left a million dollar NFL career to join the military, I didn’t go all gaga over his great heroic deed. I immediately said “What a stupid thing to do. You have a family, and you’re turning down a well-paying job, to do something that could get you killed. It’s great if he wants to protect his country and fight for these various freedoms and all that; but unless we run out of soldiers and need to start drafting people, what he’s doing isn’t necessary and it’s very stupid.”

I got a lot of hate mail for stating that.

I slowly gained more and more respect for Tillman, when he refused to do interviews and try to capitalize on all this.

And watching this movie, I really felt for this wonderful, but sometimes troubled, human being. What a great man this country lost.

I’m equally sad about a local that had a lot in common with Tillman. Nobody will ever know his name.

Casey Grochowiak of Encinitas, was also an Army Ranger. And like Tillman, who served one tour and could’ve gotten out and resumed football – Grochowiak injured his back. He felt that the younger soldiers needed his help (same as Tillman). He returned to the war.

He was on his third tour in Afghanistan, and I found out he died over there today.

He left behind a wife and two children. Also like Tillman, he was athletic and played football.

Pat Tillman’s mom Dannie, and his father (a lawyer), really work hard at getting to the truth of what happened to their son. You can understand their anger when they found out he really didn’t deserve the Silver Star (you don’t get that when you’re killed by “friendly fire”), but that President Bush and others used Tillman as a recruiting tool and propaganda. Although, I’m guessing I’m one of the few that was watching this thinking the family is also using this movie as a bit of propaganda as well. It’s not the kind of film Pat Tillman would’ve been happy about at all.

A lot of this stuff you may have read before, but the few things I didn’t know blew me away. And boy did I cry when I watched his younger brother speaking at the funeral, trying to act tough and use the f-word that Pat was so fond of.

When I saw some of the documents and statements from young soldiers, many of whom were really yearning to be in a fire fight, I was angry. I also immediately thought – this is exactly why going into the military was a stupid decision by Tillman. You not only have a war going on, but you sometimes have to worry about your own troops. I mean, didn’t Ron Kovac (Born on the 4th of July) have a story about shooting one of his own? Accidents happen, and you can blame the military, the young soldiers, a lot of things. These are the types of people you sometimes get joining the military.

I wasn’t sure what a military blogger was doing in this movie, but all the other people that spoke on camera had interesting things to say.

I was surprised to see one of his NFL coaches talking, and almost breaking down. It was interesting to hear about Tillman having a bike in the parking lot, while the other NFL players had their SUVs and sports cars. We really learn a lot about the character this man had.

It was amazing to see how high up the military this cover up was going. And when Donald Rumsfeld testified about this case, and we see him laughing and shaking hands with people, you want to slap him across the face. Not just because they are getting away with their lies, but for the fact that the Tillman family is all sitting there seeing this. It reminded me of O.J. Simpson shaking hands and smiling with his lawyers while the Goldman family cried a few feet away.

I did wonder why Pat’s parents got divorced. I was left wondering if it had anything to do with this.

I enjoyed seeing many of the family photos and old videos, too.

I’m guessing this will get an Oscar nomination for best documentary. It’s a really powerful picture.

I’m giving it a B+.