standard operating procedure

DIRECTED BY ERROL MORRIS  Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics  Rated R  Released in the U.S. and Canada on May 2, 2008 (New York and Los Angeles), May 9, 2008 (San Francisco)

By Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel
December 8, 2008

Errol Morris creates the ultimate Rorschach test with "Standard Operating Procedure" or "S.O.P.", the only documentary on this year's list.  "S.O.P." is an in-depth inquiry about seven young U.S. military police privates' involvement in the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003, and all is not what it seems.  Privates, including Lynndie England and Sabrina Harman (who is pictured above) recall their roles in the brutality, torture and humiliation of otherwise innocent Iraqi civilians and it is sometimes difficult to watch, with photographs, thousands of them, crudely and brutally illustrating the evidence of abuse of the prisoners.  The central question for Mr. Morris is, just because the Privates participated in the abuse are they truly guilty for their crimes?  The answer appears straightforward but Mr. Morris's film dares to challenge your assumptions about the young officers.  Are higher command officers and Pentagon civilian leadership accountable?  Mr. Morris isn't trying to trivialize the plight of the Iraqi victims, nor is he arguing that the American officers aren't responsible for their crimes, but everything you see here isn't black and white, either.  The film is an excellent investigation, as fascinating as David Fincher's "Zodiac", only more complex.  Based on the accounts as told to Mr. Morris in the book Standard Operating Procedure by Philip Gourevitch and Mr. Morris.  The film features Danny Elfman's exciting music score.

Original Popcorn Reel Film Review: "Standard Operating Procedure"  (May 9, 2008)

Popcorn Reel Feature Story:  Errol Morris's "Procedure" In Abu Ghraib: Situation Normal . . .  (May 1, 2008)

Audio Popcorn:  The Popcorn Reel Interview with Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris  (April 30, 2008)

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