Co-directors Jon Mercer and Tim O’Donnell’s Tougher Than A Tank tracks the hardships veterans face when dealing with the Veterans Affairs and the clever way a Marine seeks to remedy a situation for a friend. Marine Eddie Ryan was struck by friendly fire while deployed in Iraq, where he suffered a life-threatening brain injury. Fortunately, he survived but was left with limited mobility and unable to feel certain emotions.
After returning home from serving in Iraq, fellow troop Noah Cass had survivor’s guilt, PTSD, and a loss of purpose. Cass heard that his friend, who he thought was dead, was actually alive but was about to stop receiving aid from the VA. Frustrated at the lack of care by the VA towards veterans, Cass decides that he will run from his place in Somers, Connecticut, all the way to Ryan’s home in Lake George, New York. He plans to get there in just two and a half days. Rather than just starting a GoFundMe, Cass raises money for Ryan via this arduous trek.
“…[Cass] will run from his place in Somers, Connecticut, all the way to…Lake George, New York.”
Tougher Than A Tank spends most of its time on the road as Cass and some of his friends run the 145-mile trip, while the rest of the documentary is filled with interviews from the parents of both Eddie Ryan and Noah Cass. While listening to them talk about the tragic event, you can see the emotional toll it has taken on them and how hard it is to still discuss. Yet, remarkably, Ryan, who would have an understandable reason to feel negatively, does not regret any part of his time in the Marines and has kept his sense of humor. This is surprising as doctors informed his family that Ryan might no longer understand comedy due to the severity of the brain injury.
I have been closely associated with former military personnel and have heard the good and the bad behind being in the military. I have even seen shocking images of some of the things those who serve encounter while in war. The film is spot-on when it brings up how some veterans come back from the war, how veterans have limited resources after serving, and most importantly, the relationship veterans have with each other. That relationship brings a different bond that only they understand. It is more than a friendship and arguably maybe even more than a brotherhood. These people go into battle trusting each other with their lives. You can’t really find that anywhere other than the military or other careers where your life is on the line daily.
I do wish that Tougher Than A Tank had more focus on Ryan and how he feels about everything. While it does contain his point-of-view, but I would have liked to hear more from him. Also, I think Mercer and O’Donnell could have strengthened the film if they had discussed more healthcare for veterans. However, with that being said, the film is powerful and heart-warming. It gives you a glimpse into what the men and women who serve the country go through after they return home.
"…powerful and heart-warming."