- - Thursday, September 26, 2013

Blue Caprice” is based on the Beltway sniper murders that terrorized the region in October 2002, but don’t expect a pulled-from-the-headlines docudrama that restages the chaotic media circus that formed around the investigations. The debut film from director Alexandre Moors tells the story from the inside, from the point of view of the two killers as they form their twisted alliance and embark on a violent spree that took them from Washington state to the D.C. suburbs.

The flat, matter-of-fact style of the movie puts the viewer in the place of young Lee Boyd Malvo (Tequan Richmond). He starts out as an abandoned, aimless teenager wandering alone in Antigua after his mother has left him to seek work in the United States. He’s drawn to John Muhammad (Isaiah Washington), who looks like an ideal picture of a father, taking care of his three young children. It turns out that John kidnapped the children in an escalation of a custody dispute with his ex-wife that has him on the run from the law.

“Blue Caprice” focuses more on their developing relationship than on the Beltway murders. The notorious vehicle that gives the movie its name doesn’t even appear until the last third of the movie. Mr. Washington, best known for playing a doctor in the TV series “Grey’s Anatomy,” doesn’t overstate John’s appeal. He has a measure of charisma that helps him charm a small circle of dead-enders, including his heavily armed Army pal Ray (Tim Blake Nelson). But John is at best a fifth-rate prophet, who requires a naive and impressionable disciple.

Mr. Richmond brings a haunting complacency to the part of Lee. He rarely speaks, except to grunt one word answers to direct questions. Nor does he really act of his own volition, except in the beginning of the movie when he swims out into some rough Caribbean surf, perhaps with the half-formed idea of talking his own life, before being rescued by John. But the script by R.F.I. Porto doesn’t offer any easy explanations or excuses for how Lee came under the sway of the calculating, vengeful John. Rather, the movie very quietly shows the increasing isolation of the pair as they roll menacingly across concrete landscapes.

“Blue Caprice” is compelling and dislocating precisely because it’s such a little novella of a film, weirdly out of proportion to the impact of the events it documents. It’s worldview begins and ends inside the mind of Lee, as he transforms from a desperately lonely kid into a trained killer. It conveys mood rather than insight, and that makes “Blue Caprice” feel terrifying and realistic.

★★★

TITLE: “Blue Caprice”

CREDITS: Directed by Alexandre Moors, written by R.F.I. Porto

RATING: R for violence

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


 

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