Dana Stevens in Slate:
Standard Operating Procedure, Errol Morris’ brainy, meandering inquiry into the origin of the Abu Ghraib torture photographs that shocked the country when they were first published in 2004, is indisputably an impressive piece of documentary filmmaking. Whether that makes it a great document about what actually happened at Abu Ghraib is a separate question, and one that goes to the heart of Morris’ project as a filmmaker.
Ever since The Thin Blue Line (1988), a real-life whodunit that made such a powerful case for the innocence of its subject that he was eventually cleared of murder charges and released from prison, Morris has been making films that seek not to expose the truth but to show how elusive it can be. The very title of his previous film, the Vietnam documentary The Fog of War (2004), emphasized obscurity over clarity. Morris is obsessed with the impossibility of truthful storytelling, the way individual testimony is always strained through the filters of memory, perspective, and the speaker’s need to present him- or herself in the best light possible. As abstract and intellectually distancing as this approach may sound, it’s strangely well-suited to documenting the abuses at Abu Ghraib, which took place in a moral gray zone tacitly sanctioned by the administration’s ongoing refusal to define exactly what torture or stress position or enemy combatant means.