The Tillman Story is a documentary about Pat Tillman, the NFL player who, following 9/11, turned down a $3.6 million Arizona Cardinals offer to enlist as a private in the U.S. Army, then died in Afghanistan in 2004. The film has elicited critical praise but not much media hype.
How come? As Afghanistan evolves into Mr. Obama’s War, antiwar sentiment is at a low ebb among the press.
In reality, The Tillman Story, directed by Amir Bar-Lev and narrated by Josh Brolin, is a lesser example of the documentarian’s art. Yet, it’s worth sitting through because of the light it shines on what’s becoming America’s forever war. It also affords us a glimpse of that mysterious hero who refused to do interviews about why he chose to fight for his country in an era when so few of the noblesse have been obliging.
The Tillman Story is most striking whenever Pat and his giant jaw are on screen. Like an American hero from the pre-Muhammad Ali era, Tillman wanted fame, but he wanted to earn it, and without boasting, without PR. ...
Viewers can infer much from The Tillman Story about the futility of what Kipling called “the savage wars of peace.” Since the Gulf War of 1991, a sizable fraction of American fatalities have been due to “friendly fire” because the American advantage in firepower is so overwhelming. (U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan fired in anger an average of about a quarter of a million bullets per day.) And U.S. marksmanship is lethally good. (The Army coroner who autopsied Tillman’s bullet-riddled corpse refused to certify that he’d been killed by hostile fire because the Taliban can’t shoot that straight.)