SXSW 2019 – Review: TREAD Is A Documentary With An Unusual Story


Tread is a new documentary from director Paul Solet. The film tells the story of Marvin Heemeyer who in 2004 went on a rampage in Granby, Colorado in a bulldozer fortified with steel and concrete and armed with weapons to right the wrongs committed against him. It debuted at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

The story of the movie is definitely a crazy one. The fact that an everyday guy actually bought a bulldozer and fortified it that heavily without anyone realizing is truly astonishing. Even crazier is the fact that this story isn’t super well-known. On one hand, this is a good thing because that means the results weren’t too tragic. However, it is still an extreme incident of domestic terrorism about which the public should be more aware.

Interestingly, the film decides not to paint Heemeyer in a way that is villainizing him. Although this is perhaps a more fair perspective from a journalistic standpoint, we probably don’t want to be making a terrorist out to be sympathetic. Thankfully, the movie does not present his actions in a positive light, but the film does look at Heemeyer as if he is the victim.

The pacing of the movie is somewhat inconsistent. The second half of the film is where the action occurs, and as a result, the first half of the movie is extremely slow. It’s really hard to get into the film’s earlier portion, although the latter part is absolutely crazy and worth the ride. The movie almost would have made a better short than a feature, as that would have allowed it to cut out the fluff.

The first half of the film is the part that isn’t interesting. Part of what makes it uninteresting is that it is largely based on speculation. The movie is trying to guess what the mindset of Heemeyer leading up to the situation was, and there is no way to know this with certainty. It almost feels like the film is sensationalizing the lead-up to the attack.

The second half of the movie, which is devoted to an exploration of the actual attack, is super intense. Your heart will be pounding non-stop through this portion of the film, as events continue to escalate and suspense continues to build. Since this isn’t a particularly well-known story, many viewers likely won’t know what is going to happen.

On a technical level, the movie is well-done for what it is. Reenactment documentaries are often frustrating. Obviously, there isn’t footage of Heemeyer’s preparation, but you don’t have to use actors to reenact it to show it to the audience. Find another method of storytelling that doesn’t add a layer of theatrics to the film. People who aren’t bothered by reenactments will likely find this movie to be great, though, as it is otherwise well-made.

Overall, Tread was a solid documentary. The second half is much better than the first, but the story is so crazy that it is something you need to see to believe.

Tread debuted at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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