Director Alexandre Moors’ first feature Blue Caprice embodies sadness alongside a very powerful biopic. In 2002, Washington DC was over-taken by what was known as the Beltway shootings. Rather than throwing us straight into the killings, Blue Caprice takes us on a journey, focusing primarily on the unorthodox relationship between John Muhammad (Isaiah Washington) and adolescent boy, Lee Malvo (Tequan Richmond). This entirely character driven plot, gradually builds up to the famous series of sniper shootings; yet it appears to be lacking in substance.
As real footage and voice recordings of the actual events flood the screen, it is apparent this is not going to be a walk in the park. Such footage wisely illustrates the terror represented and the threat the people felt about these random attacks. However, this exploration of how these killings happened in the first place focuses entirely on Lee and his transformation from teenage boy to ruthless killing machine. Whilst Lee is being moulded, it feels as if the film struggles to hold momentum, planting the questions of ‘will they or won’t they’ into our heads. Perhaps this is down to the interesting, yet increasingly popular choice of limiting Lee’s lines on screen. In some respects this worked mainly due to Richmond’s diverse performance, albeit it seemed to fall short of what the intended effect the filmmakers had when making such a choice. For the most part it is essential that we, along with Lee, listen to John (who equally gives an outstanding performance), however the already slow moving film almost reaches a halt during certain scenes.
Of course when one makes a film based on true events, the majority of audiences viewing said film will already know the resolution. The very gradual crescendo of this crime drama seemed to be teasing us into thinking the final throws were going to be informative and prove to us why these two were murdering innocent people. With only the exception of having Muhammad repetitively mentioning his wife has stolen his children away, Moors and R.F.I. Porto’s script never explains what makes each man tick. We never get a glimpse as to why Lee feels it is ok to commit such crimes.
The choice of locations alongside the film’s stunning cinematography, bring soft colour palettes and serene imagery in spite of its content. From the palm trees of the Caribbean to the busy streets of Washington, we are presented with nature and life; acting as juxtaposition to what the lead characters true feelings are. Blue Caprice’s exploration of the skills of the filmmakers and actors involved is sure to stand them in good stead for the future. Wise words given to Lee are that, ‘Life is not fair, it sucks but you gotta play’ – is perhaps what was going through everyone’s mind on set whilst filming such a slow paced, downbeat feature.
Despite that, Blue Caprice presents us with unsettling dread that the actions committed by these men who are consumed by anger and disillusionment aren’t entirely inconceivable.
Guest blogger Gloria Daniels-Moss is a graduate of Canterbury Christ Church University. She is currently developing a TV series and has recently been lucky enough to produce and direct short films and music videos for local artists. You can read more of her movie reviews here.