Blue Caprice

Blue Caprice

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

In a fateful three weeks in October 2002, 10 people were killed and three more critically injured in a random series of attacks in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia, by one man and a teenager, who became known as the Beltway Snipers. Director Alexandre Moors' strong debut feature looks at the run up to the attacks, exploring how young Lee Boyd Malvo (Tequan Richmond) became, in essence, a child soldier created - or, more accurately, brainwashed - by the older John Allen Muhammed (Isaiah Washington). The film may or may not represent the psychological reality of the men portrayed but it certainly represents a frighteningly plausible and deeply unsettling version of events.

In a similar manner to Australian film Snowtown - although with much less overt violence - the film examines how an older father figure with murderous intent, insinuates himself into the life of a younger man and leads him to do things that Moors and scriptwriter RFI Porto suggest he probably never would have considered if left to his own devices. Also, like Snowtown, the atmosphere created is unbearably tense despite the fact that we know the outcome of the narrative going in. Even more chillingly, once the seeds of aggression are sown in Malvo, he begins to spur Muhammed on - "I've created a monster," his surrogate father says, lovingly.

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When Malvo first meets Muhammed, he's down on his luck in Antigua; deserted by his mum and destitute, he is rescued by the older man. Muhammed seems to be a perfect dad to his three kids and he quickly takes Malvo under his wing. But it turns out that the happy family vibe is little more than a facade, as the children have been snatched in a breach of custody and are soon taken back to their mum. She moves to a fresh place that Muhammed cannot locate, a situation that eats at him and fuels his acute bitterness towards society as a whole.

Back in Tacoma, Washington, with the young Malvo in tow, Muhammed knows it all and wants to tell tell his accolyte about it. From the vampires sucking him dry with their middle-class lives to his theory of anarchy as a solution, he encourages the near-silent Malvo to commit increasingly violent crimes in order to prove how much he loves him. Acting as a second surrogate father is Army gun-nut Ray (Tim Blake Nelson) a survivalist sort whose garage would put the average platoon armory to shame. He loves Malvo's natural skill with a widowmaker - outlined in a chilling scene, with Moor in a directorial choice that runs through the film, putting the reactions of Malvo to shooting the weapon firmly in his sights, rather than what is happening at the other end of the gun. Through this secondary character, played with a surprising amount of sympathy by Nelson, Porto and Moor are able to examine notions of how gun crime in America could be facilitated almost accidentally, while at the same time they explore the psychological bond between the two murderers.

Moors film is a slow-burn but once the motor of the blue Caprice of the title starts to run, there is no stopping it. The car becomes a symbol of the mayhem the men are set to create, as they customise it for killing, just as Muhammed has customised Malvo, carving him out for his deadly role. Washington brings the perfect mix to Muhammed - this is not some freakish loner, easily marked out as a 'wrong un' but a man who seems perfectly sane on face value, until you begin to listen to what he espouses. Richmond, meanwhile, acts from within, conveying his own brand of brooding bitterness silently, as he embraces Muhammed through a deadly cocktail of reverence and fear. The shootings themselves come late in the film and are all the more horrific for their unfussy rendering, with the emphasis again on what may or may not be going on in Malvo's mind. When it comes to what ultimately drove these two men to kill, Porto and Moors are more interested in difficult questions than easy answers and their film hits its target hard.

Reviewed on: 21 Mar 2013
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Psychological drama about the men responsible for the Beltway sniper attacks.

Director: Alexandre Moors

Writer: RFI Porto, Alexandre Moors

Starring: Isaiah Washington, Tequan Richmond, Joey Lauren Adams, Tim Blake Nelson, Cassandra Freeman, Leo Fitzpatrick

Year: 2013

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: US


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