Tread

Released in 2020. Written and directed by Paul Solet. Documentary. Running time 1 hour 29 minutes.

Synopsis

The documentary starts with actual news helicopter footage of a huge bulldozer driving through Granby, Colorado destroying everything in its path.

Marvin Heemeyer, the local master welder in town, gets angry when a cement factory is proposed for the property next door to his welding shop. From a collection of audio cassette tapes and interviews from Marvin’s friends, ex-girlfriend, and city members, the story of Marvin’s life, business, and friendships unfold.

Marvin was well-liked by most people, was thought to be the best welder around and could fix anything, and was part of a large snowmobiling group which went out every Thursday on rides. He was a hard worker and wanted the best for his business. Everyone in town took their business to his shop. So, word gets around the cement factory is going in right next to his shop. Marvin is against the cement factory for lots of reasons which include the dust which would infiltrate his shop as well as being right near the water supply which the factory run off could contaminate. Marvin gets other city members to voice opinions against it; however, the city council–made up of long-standing residents and descendants of the town’s founders-decide to allow the factory.

The city council members do agree with the potential contamination of the water supply so they require the new factory to build a sewer and water line away from the river. They tell Marvin he has to connect into the sewer and water system of the cement factory as well–which Marvin agrees to until he learns it will cost him $80,000 and due to the hook up being the least efficient path through the property. Due to Marvin’s opinion against the factory, he has a strained relationship with the factory owner as well which doesn’t help the situation.

Marvin’s friend tells him to make audio recordings of his frustrations as kind of a diary of his thoughts and emotions. The audio recordings reveal his plan to fortify a huge bulldozer into a fortified tank armed with machine guns and take out the buildings of the people who he felt has wronged him over the years.

Those targeted by Marvin are interviewed and claim innocence of intentional misgivings or mistreatment of Marvin and paint Marvin out to be high-strung, opinionated, and possibly mentally disturbed.

Marvin essentially purchases an old 63 ton bulldozer, welds walls made out of steel plates–the inside of which he has poured cement into–onto the outside. He attaches cameras on all four sides and wires them to monitors inside the bulldozer. It has a hole on each side with a high powered weapon, like a machine gun, and a hatch on top. He builds this monster at night so no one will know and keeps it covered during the day.

On June 4th, 2004, Marvin makes his last audio recording, climbs into the bulldozer, and crashes through the shop doors. He then drives to the cement factory next door and starts bulldozing it down. The police are called and they come but there’s nothing they can do. They follow the bulldozer through town as it systematically bulldozes the city hall, the library, the founders family house, and the town store.

The police do try to climb on top to see if they can get in but they can’t, they shoot at it but nothing happens, and they try to use large machinery to block its path but the dozer just pushes it out of the way.

Marvin’s bulldozer gets stuck near the rear of the town store. It’s at this point when Marvin determines he can do no more and takes his own life. The police hear the gun shot from inside the bulldozer but it takes them hours to cut their way into the bulldozer where they find Marvin dead.

Although a lot of damage (about $8 million) was done to the town during the 2 hour destructive rampage, no townspeople were harmed or killed.

What I Liked

The actual footage is incredible. You cannot believe your eyes watching this massive bulldozer tank drive through town bulldozing buildings at times with a policeman riding on top. The audio recordings Marvin made of his desperate attempts to be a part of a community which basically didn’t want him. They liked him okay for his work but Marvin wasn’t part of the “club” so he was pushed out of a lot of things while others seemed to receive special treatment from the founding family members.

The director made good use of footage weaving the audio recordings with interviews of the townspeople who knew Marvin and then pieces of footage of the bulldozer. The documentary feels like an homage to Marvin, somehow finding justification for what he did. I know many small business owners have felt wronged by city councilors and have wanted to take out their frustrations but never do. This documentary will resonate with them and they just might side with Marvin.

What I Wished Was Better

Everyone in town knew Marvin was set to explode one day, yet all of them appear and claim to be shocked by what Marvin ultimately ends up doing. I cannot believe NO ONE saw this coming.

Final Thoughts

People will do crazy things when pushed to the brink. Not everyone has the resources or skills Marvin had to pull this off and it’s clear he didn’t want to hurt anyone physically which is why he targeted buildings. It’s a shame these cliques exist within small towns. When people invest their time, money, and energy into making the town a great place, the last thing you should do is alienate newcomers. We watched this on June 4th, the anniversary of the event–unbeknownst to us until we saw the date on the screen–and it felt eerie. Hearing Marvin’s voice on the audio was sad. I wished he would have found a different way to handle his frustration. Available to stream. Watch the trailer below:

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