Standard Operating Procedure

This article is from 2008

Standard Operating Procedure

(Errol Morris, USA) 116min

The great documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War) turns his investigative eye towards the atrocities at Abu Ghraib. The coup of the film is that Morris interviews some of the soldiers who were pictured torturing prisoners in Iraq, most notably the infamous thumbs-up female soldier Lynndie England. As is his want, Morris eschews sensationalist reporting to conduct a procedural investigation that wonders what the photos tell us about the morality of those commanding the American forces.

This approach does have its problems. By concentrating solely on the soldiers seen in the infamous pictures, Morris does not even attempt to undermine the claim that torture was only committed by a handful of rogue soldiers and allows these soldiers a free rein to claim that there were mitigating circumstances behind their heinous crimes.

Morris mixes the talking heads, with the abhorrent photographs, and in a mis-step, also includes some needless reconstructions. Nevertheless, where Morris delivers is in highlighting just how much of the atrocious behaviour of the soldiers in Abu Ghraib was sanctioned by the American military hierarchy. In The Fog of War, Morris tried to uncover what lessons were learned in Vietnam. Standard Operating Procedure strongly suggests that the answer is none.

Cineworld, Sat 21 Jun, 7.30pm & Sun 22 Jun, 5.30pm, £8 (£6.40).

Standard Operating Procedure

  • 4 stars
  • 2007
  • US
  • 1h 56min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Errol Morris
  • Written by: Errol Morris
  • Cast: ++++=

Legendary American documentarian Morris, an Academy Award winner in 2003 for his candid portrait of Vietnam-era US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, 'The Fog of War', presents his follow-up. It's an unflinching, disturbing account of the abuses of Iraqi prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.