Standard Operating Procedure (15)
Time Out rating:
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Time Out says
Tue Jul 15 2008After tackling Vietnam-era US defense secretary Robert S McNamara, Errol Morris investigates the shocking photos which emerged from Abu Ghraib. The shots of leashes and piled-up bodies snapped by US military personnel are now over-familiar – but what do they tell us?
Morris’s camera looks his interviewees in the eye as testimony unfolds from various MPs,
a civilian interrogator and the special agent who assessed the evidence for court proceedings, interspersed with artful reconstructions and the pictures themselves. Frankly, we expect the monstrous, but what emerges is more complex and human, strongly hinting at a deliberate fogging of operational parameters for young, inadequately trained soldiers encouraged to use sexual humiliation as a cultural weapon against their charges.
Some commentators reckon Morris goes easy on his subjects, but the result is perplexingly contradictory: there are claims that the photos were in part an attempt to bring the abuses to light, yet soldiers arranged the prisoners into grotesque tableaux specifically for the camera. Morris allows the viewer to decide whether they’re getting ‘truth’ or self-justification here, a gnarly process which leaves a quizzical attitude to what’s happening outside the photo frame and a burning outrage that none of the higher-ups ever faced disciplinary action. Not a comforting, or an easy watch, but certainly a great film.
Author: Trevor Johnston
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