Boasting an exceptional leading performance from Isaiah Washington, Alexandre Moore’s Blue Caprice takes a real life story that has already be used for trashy “true crime” novelizations and movies of the week, and crafts a slow-burning, suspenseful, and uneasy character piece from the material. It does justice to a tragedy while simultaneously never placing the unlikable figure at its centre on any kind of pedestal.
Washington plays John Allen Muhammad, a man who while on the run with his kidnapped children in the Caribbean sparks up a friendship with orphaned teen, Lee Boyd Malvo (Tequan Richmond). Former military officer John brings Lee back to the States with him to his hometown of Tacoma, Washington and takes him under his wing as a son in the wake of his old family’s restraining order against him. Violently driven to be reunited with his family and losing all self control, John convinces the impressionable and somewhat sceptical Lee to accompany him to Maryland in 2002 to take part in one of the most senseless killing sprees in American history.
This dramatisation of the lives of the now infamous Beltway Snipers never has to raise its voice very often to be effectively creepy and unsettling in its portrait of unchecked madness. Moore spends a good 75 minutes with his main characters before they even hit the road in the film’s titular vehicle, actually bothering to get inside the headspace of a man who thinks a violent “message” can solve his problems (and society’s as a whole) and a tragic young man susceptible to Stockholm Syndrome at the hands of a violent man who actually cares for the ward at his side.
Richmond is great at conveying internal conflict, and there are some nice supporting turns from Tim Blake Nelson and Joey Lauren Adams as the white trash couple that take John and Lee in, but the film belongs to Washington, who has never been better. His portrait of calculated and restrained violent tendencies mixed with a conflated sense of ego and pride feels like being in the presence of an actual monster.
Side note: This was supposed to get a theatrical release late last year (and did in the States), but that was cancelled and it was shifted direct to DVD just a couple of weeks ago. See it in a theatre if you can. It’s also a great looking movie. (Andrew Parker)
Sunday, February 16th, 5:00pm, Carlton Cinema