June 05, 2008

Standard Operating Procedure

“Standard Operating Procedure”
Grade: B
Director: Errol Morris
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

Director Errol Morris’ stylized documentary about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal is both methodical and compelling, highlighted by an exhaustive examination of the photographic record and Morris’ onscreen interviews with many of the key players in the controversy, including Lynndie England (who were paid for their appearances).

Admirers of Alex Gibney’s Oscar-winning “Taxi to the Dark Side” may find little new here besides Morris’ attuned filmmaking techniques and Danny Elfman’s hypnotic, sometimes intrusive soundtrack. In truth, the film’s impact as a cinematic rendering of this dark episode is both meta and highly personal. Morris seems torn at times over whether to summon anger toward his subjects or sympathy for their professed scapegoat status. Whether this is a sign of confusion, gullibility, or being evenhanded is a matter of opinion. Still, Morris’ flair makes a subject that is difficult to watch nearly impossible to turn away from.

Neil Morris

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