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post #1 of 1 Old 10-01-2008, 11:29 AM - Thread Starter
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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109943&d=1210373647

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109944&d=1210373692

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: Sony Classic Pictures - 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 116 Minutes
Genre: Documentary

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English/French/Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English, Frehcn, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Thai, Korean, German, Turkish, English SDH
Directed by: Errol Morris
Music by: Danny Elfman
Region Code: A,B,C

Blu-ray Disc release Date: October 14, 2008

"Is it possible for a photograph to change the world?"

Film Synopsis:

Errol Morris examines the incidents of abuse and torture of suspected terrorists at the hands of U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison which is located just outside of Baghdad. Using interviews, photographs, and staged slow motion reenactments, Morris shows the audience the events that transpired. These events occurred between October and December 2003, when members of the U.S. Army 372nd Military Police Division photographed themselves physically abusing and sexually exploiting military detainees.

My Take:

I remember when this hit the media but don’t recall much of its impact. Watching this documentary you get a much better perspective of what took place at Abu Ghraib. Not so much from the interviews but more from the photographs that were taken. They say that a picture tells a thousand words. I guess pictures can be misinterpreted to an extent. The meaning behind a gesture is what I am referring to. Of course that is something that can only be interpreted by each person looking at the picture. The events portrayed within the picture leave little to interpretation. There is no question that the detainees in the photographs were being “handled” by the American soldiers at this facility. The level of that “handling” and who may have ordered it/ knew about it is the issue. I can agree that when dealing with terrorists under these circumstances that there is a certain amount of necessary physical handing or ‘softening’ that may be utilized in order to achieve a desired goal. In times of warfare it could go with the territory. Some of the events depicted in these photos had little to do with that and looked to be more like pleasure seeking abuse. In hearing the stories of those interviewed it seemed like some of them were definitely set up as scapegoats while it was obvious that there were others who were ring leaders and got what they had coming. The bottom line is that someone should have been watching. General Karpinski lost her command as a result and is pretty bitter about it. She had a responsibility to know what was going on in all of the facilities under her command. Even if everyone kept this from her she would still bear the brunt of the blame for not having trustworthy people in the right places under her command. Listening to the former soldiers involved in this there is a lot of finger pointing. Most of them spent time in prison as a result of their involvement. That involvement could simply have meant being in a picture one time while a detainee was being “mistreated”.

Procedurally things have changed as a result of the exposure of what went on at Abu Ghraib. Frankly I don’t understand why these people felt the need to take pictures. One claims that it was to document it so she could expose it later. Perhaps that’s plausible but I am certain that other avenues could have been taken if she truly didn’t want to be a part of it and wanted to blow the whistle. I think that the pictures were taken for personal enjoyment/satisfaction. They were being shared, copied and passed around within the unit. In the end no other governmental agency representative outside of the Army personnel specified took a hit for what happened. Despite the fact that a detainee was killed while in Abu Ghraib as he was being interrogated by a member of the CIA. I started watching this and I couldn’t turn it off. This was a compelling documentary that I found eye opening. It’s obvious from watching this and listening to Director Errol Morris that he is putting his spin on this and is convinced there was a cover up. I can’t say one way or the other but there is no question that what went on shouldn’t have reached the level it did. He did a great job of telling the story through the use of the photographs taken, interviews of some of the key military personnel involved and staged slow motion reenactments. I found it poignant, disturbing and worth seeing.

Parental Guide:

The rating is for disturbing images, content involving torture, graphic nudity, and language.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

Audio: 82

  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

Video: 82

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

Standard operating procedure comes to Blu-ray Disc featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 3.4 mbps.

Being a filmed documentary this presentation really didn’t contain an over abundant color palette or detail enhanced visuals. The interviews and reenactments made up the body of the video and the still photos filled in the rest. Images were definitively resolute and crisp with bland looking fleshtones and limited use of color due to the source material. Contrast and black levels were excellent which gave bright and dark elements good visual depth and dynamic punch. The satisfying audio quality was anchored by dialogue which was clearly intonated with excellent tonal diversity. Danny Elfman’s music score seemed an apropos addition to the subject matter as the entire system was drawn upon for its reproduction. I was impressed at the clarity, atmospheric presence and dynamic impact of the sounds associated with the reenacted flashback sequences. From a technical perspective this was a very good audio/video offering that favorably enhanced the telling of this story.

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary with Director Errol Morris

  • (HD)Premiere Q&A with Director Errol Morris (black and white)

  • Press conference with Errol Morris and Julie Ahlberg at the Berlin Film Festival Feb. 2008

  • Diplomacy in the age of terror: The impact of diminished rule of law on international relations – A panel discussion inspired by the film

  • 9 additional scenes

  • Extended interviews – Samuel Provance, Jeremy Sivits, Steven Jordan, Tim Dugan and Hydrue Joyner

  • (HD) Theatrical Trailer

  • (HD) BD Previews – Redbelt, Felon, The counterfeiters, and Persepolis

  • BD-Live enabled

Final Thoughts:

Standard operation procedure recounts a series of events that proved rather embarrassing to members of our military as well as our government. The fact that these events occurred is undisputable while the reason that they did seems to be left up to interpretation. This documentary provides viewers with a candid look at the photographs that led to the exposure of what went on and interviews of those who were implicated by them. I found it interesting and disturbing at the same time. This Blu-ray presentation features good quality audio/video and bonus content that allows the director the opportunity to voice his opinion and the thought process that went into the making of this film. I would recommend this as a rental.


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS1x 1080p High Definition Front Projector
Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BD30 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Marantz DV7001 Universal Disc Player
Denon AVR 5308CI THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 seven Channel amplifier
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package

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