Standard Operating Procedure


Standard Operating Procedure

Critics Consensus

Well researched and finely crafted, Standard Operating Procedure is another gem from master documentarian Errol Morris.



Total Count: 107


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,726
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Movie Info

"Standard Operating Procedure" provides an examination of the unintended consequences of the Iraqi war with a focus on events at Abu Ghraib prison which began to appear in global media in 2004. The prison quickly became notorious for the shocking photos of the abuse and torture of terror suspects by military men and women. Ultimately, it is the story of soldiers who believed they were defending democracy but found themselves plunged into an unimagined nightmare.


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Critic Reviews for Standard Operating Procedure

All Critics (107) | Top Critics (39) | Fresh (84) | Rotten (23)

  • For American military personnel to descend to Saddam's level was one of the worst moments in US history, and Morris's film reveals the truth: the poisonous Abu Ghraib pictures were not merely an American scandal but a human catastrophe.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • In taking us beyond the edges of those infamous photographs, he shows us a system that did more than produce a few bad apples; it was rotten to the core.

    Jul 4, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Morris offers valuable new perspectives on Abu Ghraib, but the paying customers may not care to go there again.

    Jun 23, 2008 | Full Review…
  • Standard Operating Procedure feels like a historical work in progress, brilliant, thought-provoking but incomplete.

    Jun 6, 2008 | Rating: 4/5
  • As unappetizing as the subject may seem, Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure exerts a hypnotic pull anyway.

    Jun 6, 2008 | Rating: 3/4
  • Truth is a matter of perspective in director Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure, a piercing look at the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and the aftermath of their discovery.

    Jun 6, 2008 | Rating: B | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Standard Operating Procedure

  • Oct 20, 2009
    The other side of the story
    Brody M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 27, 2009
    "The fact that a person acted to pursuant to order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." - Nuremburg Principle IV "Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms." - Groucho Marx Errol Morris turns his eyes from the top of the military command with Robert McNamara(currently burning in hell) in "The Fog of War" to those at the bottom with the riveting documentary "Standard Operating Procedure" about the documented abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in 2003. Per his usual style, he allows his subjects to tell their own story and possibly explain what they were thinking when they took the infamous photographs of abuses. My personal theory is that they were meant as souvenirs much in the same way that hunters would take photos of themselves with animals they killed. While expressing doubts in letters back home, Sabrina Harman said she took the photos as evidence while also appearing smiling in some of them. On one level, there was the standard operating procedure which consisted of bringing in Iraqi men of military age at random and softening them up for interrogation which included sleep deprivation.(The photograph of the prisoner standing on a box with his arms outstretched was part of procedure.) Even these procedures turned out to be useless in gathering useful intelligence. Then, there were actions which even the authorities thought went beyond this which included ritual sexual humiliation. A lot of this has to do with power, as the poorly trained and unsupervised soldiers as part of a herd mentality used it against those who could not defend themselves. The fact that they tried to hide what they did from their superiors proves that they thought they were doing something wrong. My only question: is how did the photographs get out? And one minor point: "Standard Operating Procedure" was distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. At one point, in the documentary two of the cameras are identified as being Sony. Since this might not have been necessary, there is a hint of product placement.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 11, 2009
    Errol Morris tries a different style in this one. The interviewees don't look straight into the camera (his signature shot), but it's also not a film about backwoods hillbillies or pet cemeteries. The subject matter is intriguing, and it's cool to get testimonies of the prison guards in trouble. Yes, I believe they got set up for failure, and as brainwashed military they were just doing what they were told to do. However, could they be any more STUPID to take all those pictures? I think not. Hmmm...let's give a thumbs up and smile while standing over the dead body of a guy we killed. Real classy.
    Curtis L Super Reviewer
  • Dec 28, 2008
    The great thing about Errol Morris documentaries is the simplicity of them. He relies on the story to inform and entertain. Here he goes deep to find out the story behind the Abu Ghraib prison. I know this wasn't spose to be a comedy, but fuck I was laughing a lot. These fuck soldiers were just a bunch of fucking morons. Why would I feel sorry for them? These guys were like bad characters from a Happy Madison film. Rob Scheinder and Kevin James are "Soliders". It would make millions. Overall though it was great to know the whole story behind the photographs and how everything just got so fucked up there.
    Keith M Super Reviewer

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