The story of Pat Tillman's life and death is all that Hollywood craves: heroism, iconoclasm, conspiracy, sports, a little romance, a lot of tragedy. Imagine how much the studios would love to make a movie about the NFL safety who quit pro football to fight alongside his brother in Iraq and Afghanistan only to die accidentally at the hands of his fellow rangers. For good or bad, this is one true story they won't get their hands on, at least not for a long while. In the meantime, The Tillman Story, a documentary from director Amir Bar-Lev, gets behind the making of a would-be legend in a way that may invalidate any future attempt at a biopic.
Just as his prior film, My Kid Could Paint That, subverted ideas about art, especially as a commodity, Bar-Lev's latest questions the entire nature of myth-making, particularly as collaborated by government and media in time of war. Additionally The Tillman Story is a fascinating look at a kind of family too rarely seen in the 21st century. Between reality television and the continued obsession with celebrity deaths, we're so used to seeing people exploit their own family members, living or dead, for the sake of fame and fortune that it's unbelievable how protective Tillman's parents, brothers, friends and widow are of his image and legacy. Ultimately, The Tillman Story is as much about what isn't discussed as what is.