Standard Operating Procedure (2008)

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

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


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.

Rating: R (for disturbing images and content involving torture and graphic nudity, and for language)
Genre: Documentary, Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By: Errol Morris
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 14, 2008
Runtime:
Sony Pictures Classics - Official Site

News & Interviews for Standard Operating Procedure

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Critic Reviews for Standard Operating Procedure

All Critics (103) | Top Critics (37)

Morris offers valuable new perspectives on Abu Ghraib, but the paying customers may not care to go there again.

Full Review… | June 23, 2008
Film.com
Top Critic

Standard Operating Procedure feels like a historical work in progress, brilliant, thought-provoking but incomplete.

Full Review… | June 6, 2008
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

As unappetizing as the subject may seem, Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure exerts a hypnotic pull anyway.

June 6, 2008
Miami Herald
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | June 6, 2008
Detroit News
Top Critic

A female face: unformed personalities the equivalent of the portrayal of naïveté by Sissy Spacek in "Badlands." An improbable horror movie about metadata and its discontents.

Full Review… | April 8, 2014
Newcity

The film's bloody dramatizations...suggest a fundamental distrust of the efficacy of the word over the image and a bland assumption that audiences have lost their ability to empathize.

Full Review… | November 14, 2013
Film Comment Magazine

Audience Reviews for Standard Operating Procedure

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.

puffchunk
Curtis Lilly

Super Reviewer

"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.

Harlequin68
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Oh boy. I saw this one at the same time as Taxi to the Dark Side and they kind of morph into each other. Errol Morris as usual gives us some interesting visuals...but imagine if the two documentarians had collaborated on a much better join project?

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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