Generally favorable reviews - based on 31 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 31
  2. Negative: 0 out of 31

Where To Watch

Stream On
Stream On
Stream On

Critic Reviews

  1. 100
    With Standard Operating Procedure, the Iraq War finally has its Hearts And Minds.
  2. 100
    Disturbing, analytical and morose. This is not a "political" film nor yet another screed about the Bush administration or the war in Iraq. It is driven simply, powerfully, by the desire to understand those photographs.
  3. Morris challenges us to understand what the pictures show and what they don't show, and to see them in context. And he confronts us with the most important question surrounding them: Do they reveal a crime, an aberration in the system or standard operating procedure?
  4. Morris, using a welter of photographs (many of which we haven't seen), constructs a day-to-day sense of how Abu Ghraib descended into a medieval hell.
  5. At this late date there is little that is factually revelatory about his film, but as a human document of what people are capable of in wartime, it's indispensable.
  6. 91
    Standard Operating Procedure says that human nature abhors moral vacuums - but sometimes humans get sucked into them.
  7. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    It's distinctly Morrisean, as it were, and seeing his style applied to subject matter with which one is already somewhat familiar makes one... well, question the style a bit.
  8. 88
    No matter how slick and questionably appropriate Morris's style may be, the content is compelling.
  9. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    It may be the most disturbing film you'll see in a long time.
  10. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    In Standard Operating Procedure, Errol Morris does something inconceivable and, at first glance, ill-advised. He gives the US soldiers of Abu Ghraib back their humanity.
  11. 80
    Morris argues that the photos also functioned as a cover-up: prosecution of the case centered on them, leaving free and clear many of those higher up the chain of command.
  12. Focus is really the heart of Morris' unsettling film, which strikes a remarkable balance between art and disturbance, between beauty and pain.
  13. 80
    Not only does Standard Operating Procedure look closely at visual evidence and it's true meaning, it also strives to question the validity of any given photo and, digging deeper still, the meta meaning of a photographic image.
  14. The ethical fallout, the lingering fog of the so-called war on terror, is not that people don't know what's wrong or who's guilty - it's precisely that they do, and count it as the cost of doing business.
  15. Reveals one mystery, only to reveal another that it can't quite penetrate.
  16. In presenting their testimony to the jury of public opinion, Morris would seem to be building a case for absolving some of them of mistreatment charges and implicitly asking for an investigation of those who were not charged.
  17. 75
    Just because others bear blame for what went on doesn't mean they bore none, and while the deal they got was raw, they never lacked the ability to say no.
  18. 75
    It also leaves you pondering what you would have done if you had been one of the soldiers stationed there, fighting in an increasingly loony and surreal war. There but for the grace of God, and all that.
  19. A big, provocative and -- it goes without saying -- disturbing work, though what makes it most provocative is that its greatest ambitions are for its own visual style.
  20. 70
    While this does not strike me as the most urgent element of Standard Operating Procedure, Morris makes a persuasive case that many of the Abu Ghraib photos don't show us what we think they do, and that some of the episodes depicted were staged specifically to be photographed (and might not otherwise have occurred).
  21. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    While Morris isn't interested in exonerating anyone, he clearly sympathizes to some degree with the MPs and deplores the military's fall-guy strategy, which punished these seven soldiers as exemplary "bad apples" while leaving all higher-ranking officers untouched.
  22. These people manage to convince us that the events at Abu Ghraib were standard operating procedure and not aberrant activities. Therein lies the horror of the movie – and also its banality.
  23. It's gut-grinding, to be sure. But a misjudged degree of cinematic dazzle obscures the outrages at the core of Standard Operating Procedure.
  24. I’m not sure Morris clinches his case, but I’m not sure he wants to: His aim is to throw a monkey wrench into the cogs of our perception.
  25. Morris mixes piercing sit-downs with disturbing evidence. Though soldiers, including the notorious Lynndie England, express remorse, it's haunting to hear how several prisoners were "nice guys" or known to be innocent, yet no connection is made between those remarks and the images of torture.
  26. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Adds relatively little insight to the public understanding of wayward military behavior more incisively analyzed in "Taxi to the Dark Side."
  27. 50
    By the end, we wind up pretty much where we were four years ago when the pictures first appeared in the papers: Inexperienced troops did disgusting things, but it's a mystery who else knew.
  28. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    Morris's manner of relating this story is very often quite inappropriate to its substance. It is a sordid and appalling tale and what it demands is almost an anti-style -- rough, crude, grim, technically poor imagery unrelieved by sleek, slick fancy work. If you are going to rub our noses in this ugliness, you must not let up until, perhaps, we have learned our lesson.
  29. 40
    Since "The Thin Blue Line's" remarkable intervention, Morris's work has grown more public and more problematic--lofty yet snide, a form of know-it-all epistemological inquiry.
  30. If the movie is meant to uncover any "big scandals," it's a disappointment. The investigator, in one surprising sequence, goes through a number of alleged "torture" photos and acknowledges that the vast majority of them represent "standard operating procedure." That is supposed to be the film's kicker: not what was illegal but how much was legal.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 9 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. NatalieJ.
    Jun 27, 2008
    This film makes it apparent that not all movies are made to entertain. This mind-boggling and grotesque account of the military photographs This film makes it apparent that not all movies are made to entertain. This mind-boggling and grotesque account of the military photographs at Abu Ghraib narrates, without bias, the frailty of ethics and morals in the midst of war. It presents the context of the photographs without demonizing the military involved, or even the inmates, and simply reveals the events that took place and how the pictures came to be. The distinct Morrisian style is eloquent and yet simple in showing the interviewees eyes as they make discoveries about the incident as they are being asked. This film is one of the most disturbing that I've seen in my entire life, yet it makes me think days after i've seen it. The end will seem rather disappointing and somewhat lacking conclusion, as it simply tells the truth; most instances photographed were "standard operating procedure" and one of the soldiers involved was not allowed to be interviewed for the film. During the credits, however, it gives a website to investigate further. This is a must see if anyone wants to see a breathtaking Iraq War film that is exceptionally unbiased and profound. Full Review »
  2. DellaA.
    Jun 13, 2008
    It invoked in me a compassion that I didn't realize I could have for these kids. I already KNEW they were scapegoats, but this put It invoked in me a compassion that I didn't realize I could have for these kids. I already KNEW they were scapegoats, but this put everything in a whole different light. Full Review »