Director Errol Morris, whose film The Fog of War won an Oscar for best documentary in 2004, has created a stir with his latest film about the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. Some critics feel that Standard Operating Procedure—which features interviews with most of the guards involved in the scandal and recently won the runner-up jury grand prix award at the Berlin Film Festival—isn’t critical enough of what happened at Abu Ghraib.
What the commentators said
In some ways, Morris handles this very serious subject matter in a rather light way, said Geoffrey Macnab in the Guardian. “There are high tech animations and graphics, and Danny Elfman’s music isn’t so different from his score for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” On top of that, Standard Operating Procedure “at times comes across as strangely sympathetic” toward the abusers at Abu Ghraib.
Are we talking about the same movie here? said Dave Calhoun in Time Out London. Morris’ film offers a “sheer sense of horror and smart modes of investigation.” And it’s strength lies in the fact that Morris “allows his motley subjects to speak for themselves, with no narration and only the odd question heard. Are his interviewees honest? Repentant? Deluded? Evil?”
Well, one thing’s for sure—Morris’ documentary has really divided critics, said the Arab Times. Some thought that it was “a sober analysis of what went wrong at Abu Ghraib,” but others “felt it offered little new insight into the abuse and ignored the wider issue of how the scandal surrounding it dented U.S. prestige.”