Plot: What’s it about?
If you watched even a few minutes of the news, read a few pages in a newspaper, or browsed through a magazine, you’ve heard about Abu Ghraib. This was a military detention center in Iraq, under American control where various prisoners were held and interrogated. Abu Ghraib would become infamous when pictures and videos were leaked to the media that showed U.S. soldiers involved in humiliation and abuse of the prisoners. In Standard Operating Procedure, filmmaker Errol Morris delves in depth into the events and those involved. In addition to the actual pictures and videos made famous around the world, Morris provides all new interviews that provide even more insight into these actions. You might think you know all there is to know about Abu Ghraib, but think again…
I think we’ve all seen more coverage on the Abu Ghraib incidents than we can handle, so I wasn’t sure what else Standard Operating Procedure could tell us. As skilled as Errol Morris is, I wondered what new ground could be mined here, given the sheer volume of information already available. I don’t know if Morris does cover new bases, but he does allow us to learn more about the people involved, through some informative interviews. You’ll hear from those directly involved, their inner thoughts on what went down and why, as well as portraits of them outside of these incidents. This really puts a more human spin on the events, on both sides of the controversial encounters. Standard Operating Procedure is a well made, informative feature, but not one I would revisit or recommend as a purchase.
Video: How does it look?
Standard Operating Procedure is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. This isn’t the most stylish transfer, but it looks excellent. The visuals have been tweaked at times, but regardless, the image stands tall here. The visuals are clear and show great detail, so depth is impressive. Not all of the footage looks that good, as some archival content is used, but overall this is a more than solid looking effort. The image looks natural in both color and contrast, with no serious concerns. Not all that memorable, but this is a terrific presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
This Dolby TrueHD 5.1 option is solid, but keep in mind, this kind of material doesn’t light up the surrounds. At the same time, there is more presence here than in most documentaries, so this is an active mix. The music sounds excellent, with a lot of life and presence, which really enhances the experience. The interviews all sound crystal clear, with good volume levels and no errors at all to mention. So not a dynamic soundtrack, but a good one and that is enough in this case. This disc also includes French and Portuguese language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, German, and Turkish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Morris’ audio comments are worth a listen, as he touches on various production issues, the social impact of the events, and his own opinions on what happened and those involved. So a varied, informative track that never has much slow down, worth a spin if you’re a fan of Morris. You can also watch nine deleted scenes, but exclusive to this Blu-ray release is around two hours of material not used in the finished cut of Standard Operating Procedure. This isn’t cutting room floor stuff either, this is good footage and some insightful interviews. This disc also includes a Q&A session with Morris, a press conference with Morris, and a panel discussion on diplomacy in the age of terror.