Judge Clark Douglas is still looking for answers.
Some killers are born. Others are driven to it.
In the fall of 2002, a series of inexplicable killings took place in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Over the course of three weeks, ten people were killed and three were injured. The murderers were known as "The Beltway Snipers"—a middle-aged African-American man named John Allen Muhammed and a 17-year-old accomplice named Lee Boyd Malvo. They seemingly picked their targets at random, and their precise motives were never fully established. Muhammed was executed in 2009, while Malvo remains in prison. Much of the case remains a mystery.
Alexandre Moors' directorial debut Blue Caprice seeks to unravel a bit of the mystery…or does it? The film claims that it's merely "inspired by the true story" (which generally serves as Hollywood-speak for "we changed almost everything"), but Moors actually hews pretty close to the established facts and doesn't sensationalize things at all. Almost everything the film tells us about these guys is something that has already been stated elsewhere, from their detailed plot to hide their true motives to the dark inspiration Malvo found in The Matrix. Unfortunately, what the film doesn't do is illuminate the situation any more than the news reports did back in 2002. After spending an hour and a half with these two troubled individuals, we don't feel as if we really know or understand them any better than we did beforehand.
I'm a little dismayed at how empty Blue Caprice feels, because Moors and his collaborators clearly have some talent. It's an artful experience in many regards, and the mostly-silent opening sequence sets us up for a hushed, meditative experience that is more interested in showing than telling. Alas, the movie becomes more obvious and more frustrating as it proceeds, refusing to let the viewer in or take a stab at insight beyond highlighting every psychological red flag it comes across.
Isaiah Washington has long seemed like an actor on the verge of delivering an exceptional performance—he clearly has some raw talent and a very natural screen presence, but he always seems to be holding something back (sometimes so much that his performances can feel one-note). Blue Caprice offers him an opportunity to really demonstrate what he can do with a meaty role, but he doesn't fully take advantage of the opportunity. Muhammed seems like a psychopathic control freak from the beginning, and that never changes—there's no nuance. Sure, okay, that's who the guy was, but what really makes him tick? There are a few scenes that hint that his horrific behavior is rooted in his failed marriage, but the movie never commits to any of its stray suggestions. I'm all in favor of letting viewers decide things for themselves, but Blue Caprice doesn't give us enough to chew on before the credits roll.
The film also fumbles in its handling of the killings themselves, opting for arthouse tastefulness over real-life horror. The scenes are handled in an understated and dispassionate manner that suggests that Moors is attempting to put us in the minds of his characters (who seemingly feel nothing when killing their victims), but that doesn't accomplish anything if we aren't given much elsewhere that allows us to actually understand them. This is the sort of film that some might be inclined to call "well made" without being able to elaborate, why, exactly, it's worth seeing.
Blue Caprice receives a solid standard-def transfer, highlighting the film's muted, handheld cinematography. It makes good use of its rural locations on a regular basis, and detail is solid throughout. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track is exceptional, proving surprisingly immersive despite its low-key nature. The gentle score is woven into the mix quite effectively, while dialogue is clean and clear. Supplements include an audio commentary with Moors and writer R.F.I. Porto, a press conference from the Deauville Film Festival, a behind-the-scenes featurette and a trailer.
Blue Caprice authentically recreates the inexplicable chilliness of the events at its core, but neglects to provide enough substance to merit a watch. Still, I'm curious to see what Moors does next.
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