I wasn’t at all too stoked about checking out Alexandre Moors’ feature length debut Blue Caprice. This was for a few reasons. First of all, I tend to shy away from films which seem to tap into whatever hot button issue Sundance has chosen to make its programming revolve around. It’s not that I don’t think the films have anything to say, in fact, they are probably more relevant than ever. For me, watching movies has always been a method of escapism, and when I see a film that mirrors some of the more disturbing aspects of everyday life, it puts me in a foul mood.
The other reason I didn’t want to check out Blue Caprice was because the last thing the film’s Director had worked on was a short film entitled Cruel Summer, featuring the only musician I can actually say I hate with a passion, Kanye West. Of course this second reason is entirely irrational. Kanye West isn’t even in this film. I guess I was just thinking to myself that if Moors felt that collaborating with West was a viable route to take for that film, then I probably didn’t want to see what route he had chosen for this one Thankfully, my better judgement got the best of me and I ended up walking into one of the most unnerving film I have seen at Sundance so far this year.
Blue Caprice tells the story of John Muhammed and Lee Malvo, or as many of you might know them, the “DC Snipers”. In October 2002, stealthily cloaked inside the trunk of a Chevy Caprice with a high powered rifle, these two men unleashed a wave of terror in the Washington metro area, killing ten people and wounding three. It was a gruesome act which thrust them instantly into the media spotlight. Of course, many movies would make the easy choice and just document the duo’s three week long murder spree, but in this case, Director/Writer Alexandre Moors decides to instead tell a different story, the story of the odd relationship Muhammed and Malvo developed prior to the Beltway attacks.
Right off the bat, Moors decided to do something that perhaps other directors in his same position would have never had the guts to do; he humanizes the two antagonists. When we first get a glimpse of John Muhammed (Isaiah Washington), we don’t see a murderer, we see just an ordinary guy playing and laughing with his 3 children. There are even points where we find ourselves laughing along with him, the same goes for Lee Malvo’s character (Tequan Richmond). When we learn of his estrangement from his mother, and subsequent adoption by Muhammed, there’s a strange empathy for him. Knowing the path Malvo would take we are still unable to see him as anything more than a lost little boy and it is heart wrenching.
As the story continues Muhammed’s sick madness starts to seep through the rough cracks of his calm exterior, and we begin to not only mistrust him, but hate him. Like a twisted puppetteer, he begins to mould Lee Malvo into a mindless assassin, putting him through all types of gruesome physical and psychological trials, slowly breaking whatever goodness may have ever existed in him. As the film progresses it instills toxic levels of anxiety in its audience, eventually culminating in the film’s climax, the murder spree. Thankfully though, Moors’ approach to the actual murder scenes was as tasteful as one could ask for. The last thing he wanted to do was unleash some sort of Tarantino inspired bloodbath, but he also didn’t want to shy away from the brutality of the scenes. Moors shows his viewers exactly what they need to see, nothing more, nothing less.
As far as acting goes, the film is filled with a wonderful ensemble cast, which includes Isaiah Washington, Tequan Richmond, Joey Lauren Adams, and Tim Blake Nelson. Tequan in particular gives quite the compelling performance. Most of his on screen time is completely devoid of dialogue, meaning that he was constantly was having to communicate with body language, something he does both very well, and to a disturbing degree. With Isaiah’s character we understand his thought process. Mad as it may seem at time, we as the viewer at least know where he stands. In the case of Lee Malvo, his brooding silence becomes ever so much more terrifying because we are only able to guess at his motives, only catching faint glimpses of the wheels turning in his head. It is this sense of unknowing that makes Tequan’s performance so chilling.
As things stand, Blue Caprice will likely have quite a good amount of success down the road. Adam Lanza’s recent terror spree has kept this type of story fresh in many of our minds, and with lobbyists pushing for stricter gun control regulations, Blue Caprice is unfortunately more relevant than ever. The film premiered at Sundance 2013 as part of the NEXT category, and rightfully so, because it most assuredly marks the beginning in what we here hope will be a bright career for both Alexandre Moors, and Tequan Williams.