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Standard Operating Procedure

review by Zach B.



MPAA Rating: R (For Disturbing Images and Content Involving Torture and Graphic Nudity, Language)

Running Time: 116 Minutes

Directed by: Errol Morris


Studio: Sony

Retail Price: $28.96

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Errol Morris, Additional Scenes, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Chinese Subtitles, Thai Subtitles, Korean Subtitles, Scene Selections (28 Scenes)

Released: October 14th, 2008



"Standard Operating Procedure" is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, and it's a pretty stunning transfer. The documentary, fittingly, has a pretty stylized look, namely how those interviewed are lit, and how there's a steely, dark filter to it all. Color saturation is rock solid without hints of smearing, and fleshtones look accurate and meaty. Also standing out are some visual re-enactments, and sweeping shots of the prison. There is some slight edge enhancement though, and a little bit of noise, but overall the image quality here is downright sharp and arresting. 


"Standard Operating Procedures" features an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, one that is a bit more robust than one might imagine. Granted, this film is a lot of talking heads, and won't be competing with any mixes for high-budget blockbusters, but the soundscape is a pretty enveloping experience. This is due in part to Danny Elfman's stirring score, which is warmly mixed through the channels and has nice pushes through the rears. The dialogue from all those interviewed is clear, crisp and very easy to hear, and some ambient sound effects punch the proceedings up as well. Overall fidelity is rather high, too. For a documentary with an emphasis on visuals and the nature of photography, I was pretty impressed in how the sound mix complemented what was on screen.

Voice over tracks in French and Portuguese, in 5.1 as well, are also included. English closed captions can be accessed through your TV, and there are plenty of subtitles to choose from: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai and Korean. 

The highlight of the disc is the Audio Commentary with Director Errol Morris. Morris has some dead spots, and speaks with a lot of pauses, but he has a lot of fascinating thoughts and big questions for the viewer to consider. Much of his comments concern the weighty themes of the film, namely the role of photographs: in what an image tells a person, and what they don't. In addition to the praise he gives key members of his crew, Morris goes into detail about his research and discoveries. Morris also gives a lot of background information on those interviewed, and how they tie into the documentary. If you really loved the film and what it explored, or are a fan of Morris's documentaries in general, then you'll probably find his comments worth your time. Much like the film, there's a lot of food for thought here.

Nine Additional Scenes are also included, but without any context as far as why they were cut. There are some interesting moments though, but unfortunately, all the scenes are in non-anamorphic widescreen. In total, this is another 26 minutes of material. Finally, there's also the original Theatrical Trailer.

Those seeking more material though are encouraged to check out the Blu-ray version of the disc, if you have a player. There are plenty of additional supplements on it not included in this standard DVD version.


Unfortunately, "Standard Operating Procedure" was a flop at the box office and did not see a very wide release. Thus, this makes it a perfect discovery on DVD. This is definitely one of Errol Morris's most charged and fascinating documentaries, which will appeal to political junkies - but those interested in human psychology and the nature of perception will find a lot to dig into, too. The documentary looks and sounds good, and the supplements are pretty enlightening (and for you Blu-ray viewers, you'll have even more to see). This is a definitive rental, and if Morris is nominated again for a Documentary Oscar next year, it shouldn't come as a big surprise.