An atheist who, before deploying to Afghanistan, told his wife he didn't want a military or religious funeral service if he died in combat, Pat Tillman ended up being mourned in the stadiums where he was previously a football star. As we get to know his family in this somber, affecting documentary, they speak of that awkward spectacle—grieving in public, cheerleaders prancing before them, fans wearing Tillman's #40 Arizona Cardinals jersey in tribute. What a way to go for such an intensely private and thoughtful young man. Director Amir Bar-Lev (My Kid Could Paint That) gains excellent access to the very sympathetic Tillman clan, who remain angry but resigned to the government and media misappropriation of their son as martyr and war hero. He adds little, unfortunately, to what's been well reported since Tillman's 2004 death by friendly fire. It's impossible to prove a White House cover-up, no matter how many news clips he interjects of Bush, Rove, and Cheney. Climactic congressional hearings in The Tillman Story prove to be anything but. And, six years later, more than 1,000 U.S. troops have died in Operation Enduring Freedom, which surely would've outraged Tillman today, had he lived past 27. Returning from their first tour in Iraq, a platoon buddy recalls him saying "This war is so fucking illegal." Their son's skepticism and constant questioning, say his parents, is the best example he leaves for young soldiers today.
A victim of friendly fire in Afghanistan.
Opens at Varsity and other theaters, Fri., Sept. 3. Rated R. 97 minutes.