Standard Operating Procedure

"Very Good"

Standard Operating Procedure Review


There have been two documentaries thus far that deal specifically with the actions taken by the group of military police that resulted in the infamous actions and photographs from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The first, Alex Gibney's acute Taxi to the Dark Side, focused on the death of an innocent taxi driver at the prison, a high point in the atrocity exhibition that Vice President Dick Cheney explained away by saying "We have to work... sort of on the dark side." Using a case study of sorts, Gibney found a singular key to our current disregard for humanity (not to mention the Geneva Convention) and rode his expose to an Oscar win last February.

The second film comes from the venerable Errol Morris, who was last seen polling the political landscape through a heart-to-heart with ex-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in his excellent The Fog of War. His latest film is called Standard Operating Procedure, and, unlike Gibney's film, the director attempts to take the whole mess in while focusing on what the photographs from Abu Ghraib were really being used for. In his usual fashion, Morris does away with voice-over and allows the interviewees, many of whom were part of the MP squad pictured in the photographs, to use their answers to sculp the unheard question.

The torture is old news but that's half the point: suspected terrorists, one of which was given the nickname "Gilligan," were put through agonizing forms of torture and depravation in the hopes of getting information on Al Qaeda, terrorist attacks, or future attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Waterboarding, sleep depravation, sexual humiliation, electrodes: that these things happened is not up for debate. Morris believes, with due evidence, that these things were admitted to call the hounds away from more devious, unseen acts, namely incidents like the one depicted in Gibney's film.

Stylized by Danny Elfman's sinister-yet-playful score and reenactments of certain stories, Morris adds a whole gallery of rogues to his menagerie of human amazements. The most fascinating of them is Lynddie England, the infamous Specialist who posed for pictures with a prisoner on a leash and again while callously pointing to detainees forced to masturbate. Only three years after being court martialed, England has transformed from the skinny paradigm of decayed morality to a scorned and hardened single mother; she resembles something like Clarice Starling if she opted for the night shift at the Piggly Wiggly instead of Langley. When she talks about her one-time fiancée and father of her son Private Charles Graner, you can see the black hole where her sense of right and wrong use to be.

A casualty of the occupation in her own right, Morris paints England as the poster child for youth-in-conflict. Does this mean that Morris is cutting these guys a whole lot of slack? Most definitely, but his argument boils down to just that: the schematics of the current military call for less intelligent people to be wielded by more powerful, shameless people to carefully execute an undisclosed agenda. To Morris, this group of "bad apples" is a battalion of patsies. The argument is considerably shaky and insomuch as Bush, Cheney, and their cronies deserve a portion of blame, the writing's on the wall.

Engrossing if inexcusably flashy, SOP feels like a stepping stone to a more undeniable account of Abu Ghraib and its mirroring effect on our torture culture, the way documentaries like The War Tapes and Iraq in Fragments felt like links leading to Charles H. Ferguson's devastating No End in Sight. As Hollywood scrambles to comprehend the effects of this war on soldiers (Stop-Loss), family (In the Valley of Elah) and media (Redacted), Morris stays glued to the military institution and its unending ability to sacrifice "our boys" for the "greater good." It's no picnic: You try convincing people that our heads of state are basically a collective of pointing fingers.

Everyone with the flip-flops.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 116 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 29th May 2008

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 79 Rotten: 21

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Julie Ahlberg

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Advertisement
Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

The Light Between Oceans Movie Review

The Light Between Oceans Movie Review

With a sweeping, picturesque setting and emotive performances, this dramatic epic will appeal to moviegoers...

The Accountant Movie Review

The Accountant Movie Review

While this slick dramatic thriller plays with some intriguing ideas and themes, it never actually...

Train to Busan Movie Review

Train to Busan Movie Review

Leave it to the Koreans to reinvent the zombie horror movie and put a high-speed...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.