In 2002, a series of sniper attacks around the DC area left over a dozen dead or injured, bringing wide spread fear and panic. Blue Caprice, starring Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond is the story of those snipers.
Beginning long before the actual attacks, Blue Caprice (the name comes from the shooters’ car) starts with John Muhammad (Washington) and Lee Malvo (Richmond) meeting in Antigua. Lee is a kid, left to fend for himself when his mother leaves to look for a better life for herself. John is from the States, a father trying to keep his young children from his ex-wife, despite her having custody over them. The two form an unlikely and strange bond, essentially becoming father and son.
As John pulls Lee further along, back the US, and deeper into his twisted psyche, Lee becomes embroiled in a half-baked plan that involves revenge, anarchy, and chaos – the true purpose of which is never quite clear. Regardless, Lee is now a key component in a mission to disrupt America through the killings of random bystanders.
The majority of the film focuses on the bond between these two men. If it wasn’t for the knowledge of what was coming, it could almost be looked at as a poignant, if twisted, father-son story. Much more time is devoted to trying to understand their relationship than anything else. The film stresses the humanity of the characters, which can be looked at in a few different ways. First is that director Alexandre Moors is creating sympathetic characters out of two people widely thought of as monsters of the worst kind, and despite being a controversial approach, I think he succeeds to a degree. These are people you can empathize with, or at least feel sorry for. For some, this may be something of a relief – viewing the boogeymen as just people who got really messed up along the way, while others may find it even more disturbing.
To me, humanizing these villains serves more as a cautionary tale – reminding us that even the worst people are still people, and any person can become a monster if they take the wrong path.
The film itself is moody and drawn out. As I said, it focuses on what created the convoluted relationship of the two and what led to the events we know them for rather than those events themselves. In that regard, this is very atypical – I imagine that this story told by nearly anyone else would focus on the shootings, perhaps focusing on the victims, or witnesses, and playing out 24 style.
Personally, I feel like telling the story this way relies too much on the viewer to decide what the point is. There is no strong message, moral, or theme. It’s not especially entertaining, given the subject matter, nor gripping due to avoiding the “main event.” There are some powerful scenes, and much of it is thought provoking, but mostly due to the subject, and not the film itself. Washington and Richmond portray their characters dutifully, respectfully, and with great talent, but in the end, the film doesn’t fulfill the potential of the actors and story. At the screening I attended, there was a Q&A afterwards, and the discussion following was more emotional and interesting than most of the movie itself.
Though I was not living in the area at the time, I do remember the news and my parents being worried both for those we knew in DC and that the attacks could come north to us in Pennsylvania. Now living and working, literally around the corner from where several of the attacks took place, the events hit a little closer to home. The majority of the audience, however, was from the area, making the atmosphere different than this movie would create anywhere else.
In the end, however, it didn’t really gel for me, becoming too sentimental and open ended for its own good.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“I didn’t like this movie because it humanized the snipers, and as someone who lived in the area and lived through this, I don’t want them humanized.”
My Rating: Three out of Five Hats
Blue Caprice is currently in limited release, driving into 30 theaters September 27