If you remember the Beltway sniper attacks in October of 2002 you remember the terror that it brought to the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. areas. The sheer random nature of the killings made them all the more unsettling. “Blue Caprice” is the directorial debut of Alexandre Moors and it gets its name from the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice that killers John Allen Mohammed and John Lee Malvo used throughout their killing spree. It’s an impressive debut for Moors as he veers away from so many of the usual trappings that we sometimes get with pictures like this.
“Blue Caprice” puts its focus on the relationship between Mohammed and Malvo. It takes a few odd liberties with their stories, but it also effectively gets into their heads and tells things from their twisted points of view. It shows them first meeting in Antigua. Malvo is shown to be a lonely boy. Left alone by his mother, he is taken in by Mohammed who is first perceived to be a loving father of three. But we get hints that he is not what he seems. The film skips ahead to Mohammed and Malvo arriving in the Tacoma, Washington area. It’s here that the film peels back the layers of Mohammed’s insanity and Malvo’s emotionless violence.
Moors does so much right with this film. It’s raw filmmaking which perfectly serves the story and the perspectives. It’s also undeniably atmospheric and the film maintains a cloud of chilling discomfort as we witness a slow mental collapse. Mohammed and Malvo are men fueled by hate and seeking to avenge their self-viewed victim status on the world around them. The entire film builds upon these two damaged psyches and the suspense burns hotter as we know exactly where their anger will end up taking them.
Another huge reason the film works so well are the two lead performances. Isaiah Washington is nothing short of brilliant in his depiction of Mohammed. He never goes too far or pushes the boundaries. He’s always in perfect sync with the film’s deliberate pace and steady tone. It’s a great performance. I also really liked Tequan Richmond as Malvo. It’s a more understated performance and it could be argued that he isn’t asked to do a lot. But Richmond tells so much of his character’s story in his silent moments. It also helps that he works extremely well with Washington.
“Blue Caprice” is a bit of a slow burn and that may turn off some people. Personally I think that works in the film’s favor. There are a couple of moments where I questioned the movie’s intention and I wanted more from the ending, but ultimately “Blue Caprice” succeeds because of its great direction, two strong central performances, and an atmosphere and tone that does the story justice. It grabbed me early on and never let me go.