Standard Operating Procedure - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Standard Operating Procedure Reviews

Page 1 of 20
April 23, 2016
A perfect companion piece to 'Taxi to the Dark side', despite the two films coming from different filmmakers, 'Standard Operating Procedure' is a terrifying look at the events that took place within Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq War.

Whilst 'Taxi to the Dark Side' focusses on the victims, 'Standard Operating Procedure' focuses firmly on the perpetrators, who are given the chance to tell their own stories and sides to the horrible images that made front-page news upon their release.

There's a lot to take away from this one, and all of it is great food for thought, but the importance of the easy availability of digital photography is a particularly interesting angle that fits perfectly into the events surrounding this film.

Another home-run from Error Morris.
½ August 17, 2015
Very depressing but an excellent documentary. It shows the truth that the higher ups covered their asses b/c of Abu Ghraib and threw expendable lower ranking soldiers under the bus.
July 4, 2015
Brutally hard to watch. On one hand I appreciate Morris attempting to illustrate how the photographs can be a distraction from the bigger picture but on the other hand I wonder how these
men or their families would appreciate such a film showing the pictures and immortalizing their suffering for everyone to see.
½ February 3, 2014
One of the most prolific documentary directors, Errol Morris, tells the story of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal from several perspectives. Bringing his usual subjective objectivity, Morris presents several sides to the story, but has a clear version of the story that he's trying to portray. Morris wants us to understand the psyche of a person who would allow and perpetuate these atrocities on another person, while at the same time pointing the finger at everyone involved (all the way up to the top of the chain of command).

It definitely slows down in it's second half, but there's enough creative storytelling to keep things interesting. One thing I found interesting in the film is how reserved the interviewees were with their stories. It felt like everyone had an agenda, and only told what kept the blame on someone else.
September 13, 2013
I like recent Errol Morris way better than old Errol Morris. Gates of Heaven and Fast Cheap and Out of Control are grating as hell. But his style from First Person onward is great. This is a really good documentary.
½ September 11, 2013
An amazing documentary that really needs to be seen by all.
August 27, 2013
a truly depressing great documentary...
January 22, 2013
Effective - if not derivative - look at the Abu Ghraib situation, Morris' film fails to reach the heights of storytelling found in his previous films (such as "Fog of War" or the sublime "Thin Blue Line"). However, it is still wells hot, the interviews are deep and telling, and the emotions you'll feel are still real.
August 9, 2012
Incredibly disturbing.
June 12, 2012
Top-notch investigative filmmaking, though one sometimes wishes for a broader examination of the subject, as this film focuses exclusively on Abu Ghraib and the soldiers prosecuted for prisoner abuse. Nevertheless, a consistently compelling film.
April 12, 2012
For our first screening of the new Uni course block, the year had to watch a 2008 documentary on the torture of Iraqi Prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The majority of the documentary had several of the original soldiers who were courts martial discussing to the camera what happened, as well as a detective figure who examined the photos released showcasing the torture, and the General in charge. Inter-sped with this was photos and video clips from the actual case, as well as several dramatic re-enactments.

A lot of the photos displayed were very harrowing and graphic, not shielding the audience from what has occurred, as well as several of the videos showing the actual soldiers interacting with the prisoners. The interviewees were all singing very similar stories and opinions apart from 2 or 3, which made it seemed very one-sided, but it allowed us to get a look and understanding of these people who committed what they did. For me, the dramatic re-enactments worked, I felt it was slightly heavy handed but also worked well as it immersed the audiences‚(TM) into these scenes, one scene for example having water from a shower land on the camera, symbolising the view of one of the prisoners. However, some people I know were annoyed by this.

Overall, I though the documentary was fascinating and an eye opener, in no way would it be an enjoyable documentary due to the subject matter, but it would have an impact, and is definitely worth a watch.
January 6, 2012
Maybe it would upset director Errol Morris, and maybe it wouldn't, but I watched "Standard Operating Procedure" with a cool emotional detatchment and intellectual curiousity. I expected this to be an anti-Bush, anti-military, anti-Iraq war piece of left-wing, Liberal Hollywood, biased "documentary." And while there were a few moments where that feeling surfaced, I was pleasantly surprised to find a documentary that, for me, was really about two things more prominently featured than the mistreatments at Abu Ghaib. And that is that "Standard Operating Procedure" is first a documentary about the psychology of photography: why people take photographs and the power they hold. Second, it is a documentary about the rules of war and conduct of the soldiers in battle.
Was there inappropriate behavior on the part of American soldiers working at Abu Ghraib? Absolulely! And yet, I found it difficult to sit in judgment of the soldiers interviewed and discussed who were involved, not because I lack a moral compass, but because I firmly believe that it is easy for us civilians to sit in judgment of their actions when, in fact, we have no idea what that was like. The quote from the film that haunted me throughout the second half of the documentary and beyond came when one soldier was asked if he didn't know that what they were doing was wrong. Of course it was wrong, he responded, "but in war, the rules change." Only us civilians can sit in judgment on that.
Another key quote for me came towards the end, when another interviewee mentioned that the photographs were "of humilation, not torture" and explained that there was torture, but that the torture happened off-camera. This interview can be linked to a key visual moment in the film when a higher-ranking officer goes through a series of photographs and distinguises between them as to which ones were punishable offences as and which were "standard operating procedure." I think the audience was meant to be enraged by how many of the moments depicted in the pictures were technically "legal," but my mind stayed focus on the nature of war.
Again, I'm not saying I condone all of what took place. And, as a matter of fact, a few of the interviewees come off as unremorseful -- it is hard to feel sympathetic for them. But I keep coming back to the concept that we have no idea what that was like. Congratulations to you if you think it's wrong for our military to humiliate a prisoner by making him strip naked and put women's panties on his head as a means of getting him to talk. If we were doing that to someone as a means of getting critical information necessary for our safety, it seems justifiable to me.
What I liked best about this film was the part that was not political, and that was the philosophical debate over photography itself. I found the most amazing thing about all of this not to be the notorious lapes in moral judgment on the part of the soldiers towards the prisoners, but instead, the empty, reality-TV-inspired lack of consciousness in documenting all of these moments on camera. And not just one camera. Three cameras. WHY? Why would you take these pictures? Why would you want them? Why do people film themselves having sex? Why do people document their bowel movements on their blogs and expose their every privacy online to complete strangers. "Standard Operating Procedures" doesn't answer that, but it sure makes you think about it.
The biggest criticism I've read about the film is that it's too glossy...there are too many visual effects and cool graphics and stagings that some say take away from the horrors. I actually LIKED many of these moments because, for me, they kept the focus on the concept of photography itself. And for someone who like his documentaries to be a little less politically biased than the typical Hollywood far, this allowed me to enjoy the film more than I might have otherwise. A compelling documentary from an award-winning master of the form.
½ December 29, 2011
The images are familiar - over familiar of course - but the shocking fact remains that nobody above the level of Staff Sergeant has undergone prosecution for the events at Abu Ghraib prison in 2003. This eye wateringly difficult movie to watch (I started once and had to give up for a time when my head was a bit more together) rams home the whole story by interviewing the main perpetrators, Lyndie England among them - and although some reviewers have seen them as beyond sympathy, that old excuse - 'following orders' is more watertight here than on many occasions in the past.

I would perhaps have preferred a straightforward documentary approach and as is typical with almost everything to do with the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, only Americans appear - if Britain was not present at Abu Ghraib, then it's hard to imagine her soldiers' whiter than white image rings true. And as for Donald Rumsfeld? He's still a free man you know.
December 23, 2011
An informative but disappointing doc that disengages the viewer through its self-absorbed style. How necessary is it to show the helicopter explosion that Sabrina describes in a dream? Or Saddam Hussein dropping an egg on a platter? Such excess obscures where previous Morris films, in their restraint, have clarified.
December 17, 2011
Two days after i saw this it was still fresh in my mind and continued to make me frustrated about that entire situation in Abu Ghraib. The score and the visuals get annoying because they're way over the top and for a documentary like this it doesn't need to be. Those pictures and interviews are more than enough. But still this a very good doc that perfectly captures one of the biggest screw ups in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces.
½ August 8, 2011
Disturbing and Weird!
August 1, 2011
Errol Morris, the best documentarian alive.
July 8, 2011
Errol Morris' probing camera digs deep into the infamous photographs from Abu Ghraib and uncovers more questions than straightforward, ready-to-slam-the-goverment answers, like that other investigative doc on the same subject (Taxi to the Dark Side). As if daring his audience to cast the first stone, Morris places the camera directly in front of each guilty party's face while asking them to pinpoint the breakdown of their moral conscience. Was it the towering peer pressure from a government and its military hounds? Or was it just plain rotten group think from a bunch of dumb individuals? I got the impression it was a little bit of both.
June 22, 2011
Another great work by Errol Morris.
Morris investigates what led up to the infamous photographs from Abu Ghraib and the events surrounding those depicted in those pictures. During this Morris discusses the larger nature of photography and our perception of a photograph as truth, despite the ease with which images can be manipulated either in their creation or afterward.
Page 1 of 20