These days there’s a flood of documentaries examining the U.S. military operations that followed 9/11 in the name of a so-called War on Terror. If you see only one, make it Standard Operating Procedure.

It was the scandal that rocked the world and left the U.S. military apologizing to the global community. Photos released to the public depicting deplorable treatment inflicted upon detainees at Abu Ghraib shocked America and did much to turn the tide of public opinion of our role in Iraq.

Standard Operating Procedure asks: what are the stories behind those photographs, what happened outside of the frame of a photo and why would soldiers photograph such horrible acts when so many were aware in their hearts that what was going on was wrong? The film interviews many of the so called “bad apples,” the MPs at whom the finger was pointed for their appearance in the photos as well as Janis Karpinski, brigadier general at the head of our prisons in Iraq who was relieved of her command.

It would be easy to loath those who carried out these acts, but by the end of the film, one gets the sense that most of the MPs, like many of the prisoners, were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time with no feasible way out of the hell in which they were deposited. Certainly, this wasn’t what they signed up for as fresh-faced youths at the recruiting office.

Danny Elfman provides a perfectly haunting soundtrack to Errol Morris’ stunning visuals that drag the audience into the horrors of the Iraq prisons and do much to instill a greater understanding and empathy than the photos at the heart of the scandal could ever do alone.

Grade: A+

Standard Operating Procedure releases May 2.