* (1 star)
d – Alexandre Moors
w – R.F.I. Porto
ph – Brian O’Carroll
pd – Kay Lee
m – Sarah Neufeld, Colin Stetson
ed – Gordon Grinberg, Alexandre Moors
cos - Eniola Dawodu, Minori Kuraoka Moors
p – Kim Jackson, Alexandre Moors, Brian O’Carroll, Isen Robbins, Will Rowbotham, Aimee Schoof, Hilary Stabb, Stephen Tedeschi
Cast: Isaiah Washington, Tequan Richmond, Tim Blake Nelson, Joey Lauren Adams, Leo Fitzpatrick, Al Sapienza
The psychology and behaviourism behind mass killers has become a cinematic cliché. But cinematic clichés are the best kind of clichés. By which I mean that many filmmakers have been and are still telling riveting stories out of tired emblems. In this department, mass killers are hardly the stump. There are deliberate killers, serial killers, incidental killers, accidental killers and killers with superpowers. Why do some human beings do this to other human beings? Can the beauty and majesty of the cinema help us answer this question?
This is what director Alexandre Moors attempts to unearth with Blue Caprice, his quiet, solemn film that recounts the events that lead to the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. This is Mr Moors’ first feature and it is quite an obvious one. It isn’t a thriller; it is a film about suggestion. Mr Moors' doesn't focus on the event itself but rather on the relationship that engendered it. We follow the two murderers live their lives and hopefully we may fathom an understanding of the tragic occasion. In that way, Blue Caprice reminded me a lot of Gus van Sant’s Elephant (2003), which just followed the students subsist their school day before we realize we are witnessing the day of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.
Where Elephant succeeds, Blue Caprice, unfortunately, does not. Mr Moors lapses immediately with his opening prologue: showing us real-life media coverage of the D.C. shootings. The tranquil film that follows makes this prologue complete unnecessary. Lee Boyd Malvo, played by Tequan Richmond, is abandoned by his mother in the Caribbean island of Antigua. He is saved from drowning by a middle-aged man named John Allen Muhammad, who takes him in as his own son.
In an expected imprecision of the real timeline, Muhammad brings Malvo back to the United State with him as a son, where he is forbidden to see his actual children due a restraining order from his ex-wife. He begins to train Malvo as a marksman, filling his head with psychotic opinions and planning out his proposal to bring down what he calls “the system”.
Tim Blake Nelson plays Ray, an old army buddy of Muhammad’s, who allows the pair to crash on his (and his wife, played Joey Lauren Adams)’s couch in what is undoubtedly the film’s feeblest segment. Ray is a loony (which is probably why Mr Nelson is playing him) gun aficionado who supplies Muhammad with his weaponry. There is an excellent sequence where Muhammad ties Malvo to a tree and tasks him his own escape. With scenes like this, Mr Moors’ observational approach proves intensely affecting and he is helped by Mr Washington and Mr Richmond, both of whom are topnotch.
In regard to the subsequent carnage, this took place over a period of three weeks and involved both men driving around the Washington area in a Blue Caprice car, shooting whomever they felt like. There was no rhyme or reason as to why their targets were who they were. When the shootings finally occur in the film, it is shoehorned and curtailed, almost as if Mr Moors second-guessed himself while editing the picture. But in the end, what we’re left with doesn’t disburden any insight into the dismay of the experience or the psychology of the perpetrators involved because what we observe is in cerebral limbo.
Muhammad was executed on November 10th 2009 and Malvo is serving six consecutive life sentences. I suppose for stories like this, many would proclaim that anyone who would commit this kind of act is inhuman; a monster. This proposition is beyond absurd and incredibly insulting. The question is not “how can we have such monsters living in our world?”, but “how monstrous is a world that produces them?” The fact that Mr Moors’ doesn’t go for such an easy shot is admirable.