Blue Caprice looks for sense in what, to all other appearances, was a senseless moment in recent history. Over the course of three weeks in October 2002, John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo terrorized citizens of the Washington D.C. area, and America as a whole, by randomly sniping at least 10 unsuspecting bystanders with a high-powered rifle through a hole strategically cut in the trunk of their beat-up Chevrolet Caprice. These real-life villains with a poisoned sense of justice were caught when their car was spotted at a rest stop. John was executed by lethal injection in 2009. Lee is serving a life sentence, without parole. The film gets a local screening this weekend at Texas Theatre.
With Blue Caprice, director Alexandre Moors and screenwriter R.F.I. Porto have crafted a chilling dramatization of the Beltway sniper attacks and what led to them. The Houston-born Isaiah Washington (Gray's Anatomy) plays John, a troubled father who has lost custody of his children. Tequan Richmond (Weeds and Everybody Hates Chris) is Lee, a fatherless boy from the Caribbean who is abandoned by his mother in the film's first scene. In John, Lee finds a devoted, if unstable, father figure. John's own vulnerability, and his bitterness, lead them both down a dark path that ends with a plan to terrorize the nation.
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Director Moors and cinematographer Brian O'Carroll cast the world in cold, gray colors, interspersed with foreboding shots of overcast skies. Glimpses of the Iraq and Afghanistan War on TV root the movie to its post-9/11 setting and allude to other forms of chaos and violence, just as inconceivable now. A frenzied saxophone in the film's score underlines the mental deterioration of the movie's characters.
Do we come to understand John and Lee by the end? We do, but what happens feels no less senseless. Watching it, you think, "It didn't have to be this way," and yet it was. John's goal, as explained in the movie, is to be an agent of chaos. We pity poor Lee, until John turns him over to his dark view of life. "I've created a monster," John says at one point, a note of pride in his voice.
Blue Caprice isn't a movie you go see on a lark. A serious, grim, even terrifying film, it honestly portrays the unsettling nature of evil: how normal it can look, yet how twisted it truly is.
Blue Caprice plays Friday and Sunday at The Texas Theatre.