Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Tillman Story

"The Tillman Story" is dubiously structured and relatively indecisive until about the final 30 or 45 minutes, where it grew on me. It started to get on track at this point, going into the story from the right angle. It tries many things out. It starts with going into the action from the media POV, where we see Pat Tillman change from being a football star to a soldier and get killed in battle apparently by an ambush where he took the fire in order to save his fellow soldiers. For this deed, he earned the Silver Star.

But, a couple of weeks later, the real truth breaks and it sends a hurricane the way of the Tillman household: Tillman was accidentally killed by friendly fire. It at first seems like it would lessen Tillman's stature, but instead, it calls into question the previous report and everything around it. Tillman's mother and father soon start digging through the case files, and what they see is much to prove that what was originally said was patently false and "unbelievable."

This story seems interesting from the onset, but Amir Bar-Lev doesn't do the best job with it, going from the media POV and the search back to survey Tillman's entire life. Doing this among other things makes this a pretty standard and (actually at some point) below average "purpose-driven" documentary, one of those ones where everyone is seething with anger in every interview. There will definitely be people who respond to this film, but having seen enough of these sorts of documentaries, I'm not one of them.

The fact that the last 45 minutes changed my opinion in the way that they did is quite good. Here, we hear the events described in real time and witness a 2007 trial that happens over a certain P4 document that states that he was killed by his comrades. To be sure, it isn't an entirely successful finish, if you factor the pissed-off talking heads, the slapped-on last image, and the ironic but still very off-putting credits song (much like the one to conclude "Restrepo"), but it definitely helped. When I came out of the theater, I was still not crazy about the film, but I was having a harder time finding problems with it. B-

No comments: