Amir Bar-Lev's assiduous, furious documentary on the Army's craven coverup of the death by friendly fire of former NFLer Pat Tillman in Afghanistan in 2004 — and the exploitation of his corpse for recruitment purposes — is a withering assessment of U.S. military culture. Unlike recent Afghan war doc Restrepo, Bar-Lev's film feigns no pretense of "neutrality." War is hell, the former documentary relentlessly (if unhelpfully) reminds us. But The Tillman Story goes deeper, exposing a system of arrogance and duplicity that no WikiLeak could ever fully capture. While members of Tillman's immediate family and his widow, Marie, are powerful, riveting talking heads, his mother, Mary, emerges as the tireless moral compass, aided by a former special-ops soldier in decoding 3,000 pages of heavily redacted documents about her son's death. Bar-Lev portrays Tillman, who read Chomsky and Emerson and shunned professional-athlete megalomania, as a fiercely private, principled person. For his sacrifice, leadership and character, his body was hatefully used as propaganda, his family lied to and gravely let down by Congress, which ultimately let Donald Rumsfeld and several four-star generals off the hook.
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