Review: Blue Caprice
PLOT: The true story of the men behind the 2002 Beltway Sniper attacks. John Allen Muhammad (Isaiah Washington) is living in Antigua with his children when he meets a fatherless boy, Lee (Tequan Richmond) who he takes under his wing. Muhammad brings him back to his home in the U.S but soon begins to indoctrinate the boy with his murderous agenda.
REVIEW: I remember being put off when I first heard that a film about the 2002 Beltway Sniper attacks was being made into a film, as the idea struck me as sensationalistic to say the least. I avoided the film at Sundance last winter, although I'll admit I was intrigued by the solid buzz coming out of the festival.
Cut to a few months later, BLUE CAPRICE is now about to hit theaters, and sure enough, it's about as far from being a sensationalistic, tabloid-esque treatment of the killings as you can get. BLUE CAPRICE is a real art-film, even avant-garde, in it's focus on the mindset of the killers. It's a chilling character study, and relatively little time is actually spent on the attacks. Primarily, it's about the bizarre bond that springs up between the fatherless Lee and Muhammad.
Isaiah Washington, who hasn't been on-screen much since his GREY'S ANATOMY days, is riveting as Muhammad, who initially comes off as a thoughtful, charismatic father figure, only to reveal his troubling side once he brings Lee to the U.S. There's a great scene which is a chilling sign of things to come when he takes Lee on a tour of his old neighbourhood, describing the filth around them, including the neighbour who he holds responsible for having his kids taken away from him. He's clearly a madman, but Washington manages to somehow convey the humanity behind the monster- no easy task.
The most intriguing performance comes from Tequan Richmond as the vacant, tough to pin down Lee. Throughout much of the film he's emotionless, and exists almost as a vehicle for his demented father figure to act through. Clearly, Lee's a smart boy, having learned to speak English without any trace of his formerly thick Caribbean accent, but his devotion to Muhammad is dangerous. Throughout, he refers to him as his father, and only really conveys any emotion when he thinks his father-figure is displeased with him. It's one of those performances one could call quietly brilliant in that it's so subtle it almost disguises the obvious craft and talent that went into it.
It also has to be said that this is a pretty arresting debut for director Alexandre Moors. They style of the film is tough to describe, being alternately dream-like in the early sequences in Antigua, and elliptical in it's careful handling of the killings themselves. Moors' film is certainly as far from the mainstream as you can get, and I'm certain it's an acquired taste, but I was never anything less than intrigued by what I was watching. It's a window into the mindset of one very deranged man, and one utterly brainwashed boy. It's incredibly disturbing, but also a very relevant look not only at the kind of person who does something like this, but also how this kind of person has such easy access to sophisticated weaponry. Truly a film of our time- tragically.