Blue Caprice Reviews
But most of "Blue Caprice" takes place before the shootings in Washington State,and its emphasis is the bond that formed between the killers. There are two ways to tell a story like this,but in aspects this is an exercise in psychological explaination(in the manner of numerous serial killer movies and TV shows)or as a study of the limits of interpretation.
The story sets off as a bonding between Lee(Tequan Richmond),and John(Isaiah Washington)where it starts from their first meeting with John's three younger kids on the Caribbean island of Antigua to the suburbs of Tacoma,Washington where Lee follows John there where they end up at the home of an Army buddy(Tim Blake Nelson),whose wife (Joey Lauren Adams) has mixed feelings about the houseguests. John refers to Lee as his son teaches him to drive and to shoot,and demands proofs of filial love in the form of acts of violence. His kindness is punctuated by strange and cruel disciplinary actions,as when he leaves Lee tied to a tree on a rainy night,trusting that the boy will escape and come home for breakfast. On the trip to the supermarket,John lays out a vision that will mutate into a plan. A series of random,bizarre murders,he says,will ultimately bring down the shadowy,oppressive system that he believes is at the roof of all his problems. His worldview is a stew of vague political and racial
resentments combined with specific grievances. "They" stole his children,his marriage,and messed up his life,and his adopted son will be the instrument of his revenge. John,unhinged though he maybe,is more readable than Lee,whose brooding,wounded silence is the film's center of gravity. You feel the vulnerability he is unable to express,and Mr. Richmond(who was known for his television work as the oldest son on the television series "Everybody Hates Chris",as well as his movie roles from "Ray" to "You've Got Served")care and restraint make this young man's fate all the more heartbreaking in the outbreak role of his young career with gives a solid performance all around. The same can be said by Isaiah Washington who gives the role of John Allen Muhammad a sinister more evil menace which is shocking in detail. But for the way the story ends,both John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were captured and were sentenced for their crimes. John Allen Muhammad was executed in 2009 while Lee Boyd Malvo is serving a life sentence without parole. To the relief of the public around the District of Columbia and surrounding areas of Maryland and Virginia,the Beltway sniper case was solved years ago. But Moors' film suggests it is still a mystery to this day.
Character development is superficial and toss aside with nothing making up for it. Secondary characters suffer the same problem being introduced for no real purpose. It's intent on keeping the meaning ambiguous hurts it more than it does help. The scripts main focus is the buildup to the sniping terror, focusing on the bond established between Muhammad & Malvo. When it chooses to spend time in this area it glimpses something that resemble reality. A tragic story that's more complex than what we're given to work with. It curiously glosses over the terror they caused, disconnecting the shooters from the shot. Anyone unfamiliar with this story might think these two went crazy for a couple of days and then were caught. At the end you'll wonder what was the point that the film was meant to get across. Not enough development was given to explore the shooters departure from being citizens to becoming serial killers. Nothing from the main characters or secondary characters hinted at providing social commentary. There is a story worth telling in "Blue Caprice", but missing is any sort of meaning or goal it meant to be achieve.
Tequan Richmond who plays Malvo is a skilled young actor. Richmond conveys a lack of emotion in a character who rarely speaks of feelings. His exterior is difficult to read yet not too distant for an appropriate cold portrayal in a role that could have easily made any actor be wooden. Isaiah Washington is exteriorly more expressive. Portraying a man's inner rage who even under his calm exterior remains unsettling. Being both a charismatic person who's a joy to be around and a very disturbed man sanity you worry about. On a technical level Alexandre Moors is consistent. Restraint from showing any assassination scene and more focus on the actor expressions. It works showing his actors coldness, but as a storyteller decisions like this telegraphed distorts any significance that might be gain.
Blue Caprice is a caricature depiction of a tragedy without an exploration into anything meaningful. Nothing here provides much thoughts into the psyche of the sniper making whatever point it was aiming for easy to miss. If a single word was use to describe the film it would be nothing. The viewer is not given anything to analyze even in the simplest of ways nor it is a dreadful film in any way. A flawed film that showcases great talent, but provides little worth thinking about afterwards.
Composed by Arcade Fire's Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld, this often dully quiet and dryly meditative film's score is underused, but when it is utilized, it's pretty effective, with a refreshing bite that is beautiful by its own musical right, as well as fitting as a compliment to this drama's tone. For this, credit is due to director Alexandre Moors, whose meditativeness is generally cold in its near-abstracts sparseness, yet it sometimes utilizes thoughtful style and scoring with a genuinely effective form of subtle intensity. Effective moments are there, helping in bringing the final product to the brink of decency, which, to be fair, was always to be within range, considering the value of this story which is done so much injustice by questionable storytelling. Well, even in concept, this narrative regarding the story behind the horrible Beltway sniper attacks is still too thin in scope to be all that meaty, and yet, this is nevertheless a conceptually intriguing study on men's gradual movement into dark depths that finds itself sometimes brought to life by highlights in storytelling, and frequently brought to life by worthy performances. Due to the thinness in the story concept and, of course, storytelling, acting material is limited, but what material there is goes delivered on pretty effectively by the leads, with Isaiah Washington capturing the bitterness of an angry man pushed to low-down deeds by his being wronged, while Tequan Richmond takes advantage of a more quiet intensity to capture the disturbed depths of a boy brought to a new life in America by a man who will mold him into a traitor of it. The disturbing story of John Muhammad and Lee Malvo has a lot of intrigue on paper that is not given as much justice as it should be given, but Washington and Richmond most reflect an ambition for effectiveness that is explored enough by genuine strengths in storytelling to at least come close to decency. Of course, the point is that decency is not achieved, because no matter how much this film bites in certain places, it falls flat on the whole, not even being able to come up with all that much freshness to what material there is to a do-little narrative.
May be only so much plot, but when it kicks in, it's often too familiar for its own good, as storytelling is bland enough when it's not treading a formula that distances you about as much as, of all things, a lack of familiarity with the story and characters. Immediate development is lacking, the eventual explanation of certain background information feels rather forced, and even gradual characters pays only so much attention to fleshing out character layers which are ultimately very important in this conceptually layered character study. The performers capture the decline in decency within the leads, sure, but writer R.F.I. Porto provides only so much depth on paper, while still finding time to drag things along. Porto plagues storytelling with long meditations upon, not material, or even filler, but just nothing, and such overtly artistic meanderings get to be monotonous and aimless, ironically making it easier to feel out the natural shortcomings of this narrative which is handled with so little focus. Again, this story is worthy, but it's also minimalist, having only so much potential, due to its having only so much dynamicity to its plot to explore, which is hard to deny when the film meanders along what material is offers, and mighty coldly I might add. Porto's script, alone, is rich with questionable artistic over-meditativeness that borders on abstract, and certain stiffens pacing, yet momentum and, for that matter, resonance are truly deadened by the exhaustingly overblown directorial thoughtfulness by Alexandre Moors, who hits upon finding material, but generally plagues the final product with a distancing dullness that makes it even harder to get invested in an undercooked and meandering story, and frustrates with a certain sense of artistic pretense. The film wants so hard to be artistically slick, as well as intense, and by that, I don't so much mean that Moors' direction has a sense of ambition behind it, as much as I mean there's a certain arrogance to Moors' direction, which has its effective moments, and is ultimately not so abrasive that it aggravates to a contemptible degree, but makes it hard to get invested, as well as near-impossible to disregard the other storytelling shortcomings that leave the final product to sputter out as mediocre.
When the rounds are emptied, an excellent score by Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson, highlights in directorial storytelling by Alexandre Moors behind a conceptually intriguing story, and strong performances by Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond provide glimpses of a decent dramatic thriller, but natural narrative thinness, some plotting conventions, distancing underdevelopment, monotonously unfocused dragging and a generally dull, atmospherically cold and arrogant directorial performance cut "Blue Caprice" into mediocrity as a both overblown and flat artistic meditation upon the ostensibly disturbing tale behind the certainly disturbing Beltway sniper attacks.
2.25/5 - Mediocre
The blue Caprice doesn't actually make an appearance in the film till late, but then again this movie wasn't ever about glorifying the actual killings. There isn't much of the actual act of killing shown on camera...more after effects and visualizations of their damaged war path.
Weirdly enough, I actually expected a little more doom and gloom with a darker story on the relationship between the two leads. In his first directing appearance, Moors might have been better served devoting more time to his two leads relationship than turning the environment into what shaped and molded the two.
Washington gives a solid performance as a man struggling with strange delusions, anger issues, and resentment towards his ex-wife. However, his "son" played by Tequan Richmond was completely uninteresting. I couldn't have cared less about his character, and, on a side note, why didn't he have a Jamaican accent? Luckily, Tim Blake Nelson was in this film to give the most interesting performance in the movie. I loved what he was doing as this aggressively machismo guy, who is not a bad guy, but contributes to the formation of the snipers.
I did appreciate how Moors chose to delve into the psyche of these two men. Unfortunately, he didn't do it in a way that was as effective as I think he wanted to. But I do think the film feels contradictory in its message. The first half of the film seems to be suggesting that John's divorce and loss of custody is contributing to his downfall, and then the end of the film is heavyhanded in showing that the killings were random and meaningless. So, which is it: a result of John's life situation or random and meaningless?
I didn't hate the film, but I couldn't get on board with what Moors was trying to do. I've seen plenty of good reviews praising the film's camerawork, atmosphere, and performances, but this film just wasn't for me.
Definitely worth seeing.
The film charts the course of the man and the teenager responsible for the terrible random killings, giving us detailed historical and psychological insight into the anger in their lives that pushed them over the edge to start a senseless murder spree for ultimately nonsensical reasons.
Loneliness, boredom, abandonment, and anger created a volatile mix in the film's languid atmosphere which is all conveyed in a very palpable way by the excellent cast.
This is a hard drama to watch and it's certainly not a "crowd pleaser", but it certainly should be seen by anyone interested in the facts behind the event, and for the portrayal of the paranoia that ran through the nation at that time which was exploited by these two evil men.