Movie Review: “Standard Operating Procedure”
Lynndie England in “Standard Operating Procedure.”
In most news coverage of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, only a handful of photographs were shown detailing the treatment of Iraqi prisoners. There was Pvt. Lynndie England with a cigarette dangling from her mouth, pointing at a naked detainee or holding a leashed prisoner; the “naked pyramid” photos; and that strange, iconic image of a hooded Iraqi standing on a stool with wires attached to his hands.
For “Standard Operating Procedure,” Errol Morris details the horrific backstory of those photos and displays hundreds of other digital images shot by Army Reserve soldiers who found themselves in a starkly real version of the “Stanford prison experiment.” Many of these photos are far more graphic and disturbing than the ones that made the rounds in the mainstream press, and they go far in telling the story of how a wartime detention facility became a torture chamber.
Morris is decidedly not run-of-the-mill in his methodology and focus; viewers who are turned off by re-enactments in documentaries will find plenty of faults with “S.O.P.” Also, Morris did pay many of the former soldiers for their interviews, though he did not tell them what to say.
As he has for several films, Morris interviews England, Sabrina Harman, Javal Davis, Megan Ambuhl and former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski through a rigged TelePrompTer called the “interrotron,” which allows them to look directly at Morris’ face while staring into the camera. Morris’ signature technique creates an uncomfortable intimacy with his subjects, much as it did with former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in “The Fog of War.”
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