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70

Generally favorable reviews - based on 31 Critics What's this?

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7.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 9 Ratings

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  • Summary: Is it possible for a photograph to change the world? Photographs taken by soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison changed the war in Iraq and changed America's image of itself. Yet, a central mystery remains. Did the notorious Abu Ghraib photographs constitute evidence of systematic abuse by the American military, or were they documenting the aberrant behavior of a few "bad apples"? We set out to examine the context of these photographs. Why were they taken? What was happening outside the frame? We talked directly to the soldiers who took the photographs and who were in the photographs. Who are these people? What were they thinking? Over two years of investigation, we amassed a million and a half words of interview transcript, thousands of pages of unredacted reports, and hundreds of photographs. The story of Abu Ghraib is still shrouded in moral ambiguity, but it is clear what happened there. The Abu Ghraib photographs serve as both an expose and a coverup. An expose, because the photographs offer us a glimpse of the horror of Abu Ghraib; and a coverup because they convinced journalists and readers they had seen everything, that there was no need to look further. In recent news reports, we have learned about the destruction of the Abu Zubaydah interrogation tapes. A coverup. It has been front page news. But the coverup at Abu Ghraib involved thousands of prisoners and hundreds of soldiers. We are still learning about the extent of it. Many journalists have asked about "the smoking gun" of Abu Ghraib. It is the wrong question. As Philip Gourevitch has commented, Abu Ghraib is the smoking gun. The underlying question that we still have not resolved, four years after the scandal: how could American values become so compromised that Abu Ghraib-and the subsequent coverup-could happen? (Sony Picture Classics)
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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 31
  2. Negative: 0 out of 31
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    88
    No matter how slick and questionably appropriate Morris's style may be, the content is compelling.
  4. Reveals one mystery, only to reveal another that it can't quite penetrate.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

See all 31 Critic Reviews

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
    10
    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. Expand
  2. DellaA.
    Jun 13, 2008
    9
    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. Expand