The independent documentary Tread starts with a series of frantic 911 calls and video footage of what looks like a war zone. The setting of filmmaker Paul Solet’s stranger-than-fiction doc, however, isn’t in a battered Syrian city or even in an American metropolis during a riot. This small town is Granby, Colorado, and it’s being destroyed brick by brick.
Responsible for the total destruction is Marvin Heemeyer, a 52-year-old master welder and muffler shop owner who moved from South Dakota to a town just outside of Granby in 1992 and immediately felt like everyone was against him.
After 12 years of zoning disputes with the town council and arguments with neighbors over land he purchased to build a muffler shop, Marvin was at his wit’s end. He’d also planned ahead for his revenge.
On June 4, 2004, Marvin got behind the wheel of a massive bulldozer he secretly modified to include layers of extra impenetrable steel and concrete. It looked like a tank — if one was designed for the movie Death Race. Inside this monstrosity were video cameras and monitors so Marvin could see where he was driving. He also had plenty of firearms to shoot out of specialized gun ports built into the dozer.
Once Marvin got the armored vehicle moving, he spent the next two hours smashing through the walls of businesses, homes and buildings owned by the people he felt had wronged him. “God bless me in advance for the task I am about to undertake,” Marvin recorded himself saying before the rampage. “I am at peace with what I am about to do.”
Through Marvin’s audio recordings, news footage and reenactments of the events leading up to the attack, writer-director Solet gives audiences the opportunity to understand Marvin’s side of the story and how he reached the point of no return. Solet then counters the rampager’s narrative by conducting interviews with the men at the center of his “righteous anger.”
What audiences are left with is a mixed bag of opinions, personalities and intentions that crash into each other as hard as Marvin’s dozer does with the façade of City Hall. It all makes for an intriguing setup as we analyze each character and their personal versions of the truth.
Who viewers choose to believe doesn’t matter. Marvin loses all credibility when he puts people’s lives in danger. Solet realizes this but still allows him to speak his mind via his recordings. The more he talks, however, the less sense he makes. Still, there is value in the way Solet frames Tread — with balanced and compelling storytelling.
Tread hits VOD platforms February 28.