Combustible Celluloid
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With: Javal Davis, Ken Davis, Tony Diaz, Tim Dugan, Lynndie England, Jeffery Frost, Megan Ambuhl Graner, Sabrina Harman, Janis Karpinski, Roman Krol, Brent Pack, Jeremy Sivits
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Errol Morris
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing images and content involving torture and graphic nudity, and for language
Running Time: 117
Date: 02/12/2008

Standard Operating Procedure (2008)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Hard Questions

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Documentarian Errol Morris returns with yet another meticulously reported film, splashed with his own, unique style. This one is a very powerful, gripping, grueling look at the Abu Ghraib controversy. He interviews several of the low-ranking soldiers who took the fall for torturing prisoners, and we come to find out -- very simply -- that they were all following orders, and that they were in danger of serving prison time for disobeying as well as for obeying. (We also learn, at the end, that no high-ranking officer ever had to face charges.) One soldier says that if she could do it all over again, she probably would act the same, unless she could go back even further and never join the military in the first place. Morris shows all the photos and goes into depth about their origins and about how they were sorted, catalogued and eventually viewed by the public. Danny Elfman provides the Philip Glass-like score, and Robert Richardson once again supplies the rich cinematography (Morris loves to shoot amazing-looking re-creation footage). This could be seen as the third in a trilogy of Morris' war films, but Mr. Death (1999) and The Fog of War (2003) had the benefit of focusing on one character (Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. and Robert S. McNamara, respectively), each of whom Morris was able to deeply explore. Here, we meet more than a dozen, and we barely get to know any of them. Still, he gets closer to the subject than the news coverage ever did, and it's a worthwhile film.

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