It’s a pretty accomplished feature debut that Alexandre Moors has pulled off, but the style may not be one that you’ll expect. “Blue Caprice” is based on the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks that took place in Washington D.C., and kept the nation riveted by its seemingly random brutality—roughly a year after the events of 9/11 shook the nation to its core. I don’t know how much of a spoiler it is, considering that this was an extremely well-publicized case, but here goes: 48-year-old John Allen Muhammad was executed for his role in these shootings in 2010. His accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo , 17 at the time of the attacks, and 29 now, is serving a lifetime sentence without the possibility of parole. But the film proper never takes us that far ahead. In fact, the actual shootings are barely depicted at all. It was an astute choice, and the final product is all the better for it. It’s instead a haunting mood piece that recalls Gus Van Sant’s marvelous “Elephant” from 2003.
Isaiah Washington portrays John and Tequan Richmond is Lee. We watch them and learn to understand their motivations over the course of a dread-filled 93 minutes. John is a divorcee, and Lee is the impressionable son of one of John’s friends. They meet on a Caribbean island, but soon Lee arrives in Miami as an illegal alien, and thereafter meets up and partners with John, who is back in the states as well. John tells Lee about the custody battle he’s engaged in with his ex-wife, and the retraining order she’s placed against him. John alerts Lee to people who have wronged him in the past, and how he’d like them dead. And John rails on about a multi-phase plan, involving shooting a number of random people daily, and plunging the nation into a state of chaos. This last dialogue takes place in a supermarket, and an eavesdropper easily could have written it off as the ramblings of a lunatic. But then the “fantasy” chatter becomes achingly real.
There’s some marvelous support work here from Joey Lauren Adams as a character named Jamie, and the superb Tim Blake Nelson as Ray. I have no idea whether they are composites, or based on actual individuals, but they serve in fleshing out the main characters quite well. Plus, we’re even shown Ray tutoring Lee on how to fire a rifle(for hunting purposes, from Ray’s perspective). Nelson is perfect as always, and Adams is the best I’ve seen her in years, as a trashy duo innocently taking in the budding assassins. The controversial Mr. Washington is quite authoritative as John, and young Mr. Richmond quite fine as the teenage Lee. I did strongly recall “Elephant”, as I alluded to earlier, and indeed the director confirms the inspiration in a DVD bonus interview. “Blue Caprice” is much more interested in the process and situations that created these men and their methods, and keeps the bloodshed to the barest minimum. The violence is mostly suggested, which in some ways is even more disturbing. The script by R.F.I. Porto doesn’t excuse the pair, but depicts their journey to destruction in a keen fly-on-the-wall style. It’s an effective and fascinating technique, and this low-budget independent will hopefully garner an appreciative audience via home viewing. It’s stirring. Grade: A-