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STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE (director/writer: Errol Morris; cinematographers: Robert Chappell/Robert Richardson; editors: Andy Grieve/Steven Hathaway/Dan Mooney; music: Danny Elfman; Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Julie Ahlberg/Errol Morris; Sony Picture Classics; 2008)
A bore and a real pain to sit through.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Documentarian Errol Morris (“The Thin Blue Line”/”Gates of Heaven”/”The Fog of War”)directs this softball probing film on the aftermath from Abu Ghraib in 2003, as the MP soldiers involvedmembers of the 372nd Military Police Company-give their side of the story. What emerges is a bunch of pathetic low-level soldiers still not understanding that their actions were not acceptable only knowing that they were thrown under the bus by their superiors and that it was stupid to take photos of their criminal actions that could be used as evidence against them. Morris never gets around to tracking down the real culprits, the higher-ups, in this fascist-like torture prison, and interviews only these inexperienced and inept soldiers who said they were encouraged by their commanders to humiliate the detainees so they could be broken down for interrogation and thought since it was a war zone what they were doing was SOP.

Unfortunately the frank interviews with the so called bad apples, all tend to make the interviewees look less like monsters than just idiots who lacked good judgment. It tells us little that we didn’t already know before, as it unpleasantly revisits the infamous prison by using the photos that convicted a bunch of the unsympathetic grunts and re-enactments of these photos, without getting to the bigger story of the coverup that outrageously had no repercussions for the brass or any Bush official (except for the woman general of the prison, Army Reserve brigadier general Karpinski, of the 800th Military Police Brigade in Iraq, who was made a scapegoat and relieved of her command and demoted to a colonel).

Besides not coming up with anything new to say about Abu Ghraib or the ill-conceived Iraq War or Bush’s mismanagement of it, the pic lets everyone off the hook in too easy a way; and, for entertainment value, is a bore and a real pain to sit through.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”