Monday, September 30, 2013
Blue Caprice (***1/2)
Produced and Directed by Alexandre Moors
Blue Caprice is a movie that documents real, true mental instability. Much like the movies Zodiac and In Cold Blood, it covers a true story of a killer who's motive is not money or jealousy the way we like to think of violent crime. Instead, these killers are motivated by blood lust, seemingly aroused by the chaos created by killing random, innocent people. It may be the single most chilling aspect of the world we live in, that people like this actually do exist, and Blue Caprice is one of the finest films to ever showcase this kind of person. It's inspired by Washington D.C. sniper killings in 2002, and reveals a compelling story behind the seemingly mindless murders that terrified the Northeast for weeks. Directed by Alexandre Moors, his first feature, Blue Caprice holds two of the most perfectly orchestrated performances of 2013 and one of the most blood-curdling tales of murder you can see in a movie theater right now.
2013 has been a year filled with first films that feel nothing like it. David Lowery's Ain't Them Bodies Saints and Lake Bell's In A World... were both superbly crafted stories that don't give away their director's rookie status (meanwhile, Ryan Coogler's first film Fruitvale Station, which is arguably more successful than both of those films has moments that make it feel very much like a director's first film). You can add Alexandre Moors' debut to the list of great 2013 debuts. His film is about two men: one is a sixteen-year-old Caribbean boy named Lee (Tequan Richmond) who meets a downtrodden middle aged man named John (Isaiah Washington). Lee has just been abandoned by his mother, and when he sees John playing with his three kids in the streets of Antigua, he's instantly attracted to the enthusiastically paternity of the man. And true to form, John quickly accepts Lee into his life and the two begin a complicated relationship.
Lee is incredibly soft-spoken, often completely silent. This serves John just fine, since he's usually able to make enough conversation for two people. The true details of John's life begin to reveal themselves to Lee. His kids get taken from him since his wife had actually sanctioned a restraining order against John. After that, John goes back to his home in Washington and takes Lee with him. It's back in the US where John begins to truly reveal his inner darkness. He constantly talks about the evil of his ex-wife and those who have contributed to him being incarcerated in the past. All the while, he continues to be a father figure to Lee, and Lee - starved of love - is willing to accept the makeshift fathering in any form it seems to come in. When John's wisdom turns toward instruction to kill, Lee has only a moment of doubt before doing what his new father says and the two men set off on one of the most terrifying American killing sprees in the last few decades.
The slow burn of John's meticulous and successful brainwash of Lee is what makes the real meat of Blue Caprice, with the infamous sniper shootings taking up only a small portion of the film's 93-minute running time. Shot with stark certainty, Moors obviously prefers the arc of John's meticulous but successful brainwash of his young adoptive son. Equally meticulous, is how Moors reveals the details of John's character, his devilish ability to get people to do what he wants them to do. Probably most dangerous, is his ability to turn from charm to suspicion in a very short amount of time, when his true feelings and motivations are revealed. Lee becomes such a willing sponge to his newfound father, confusing John's muddled musings for wisdom. Washington's performance is really one of the very best depictions psychotic, anti-social behavior in very many years (though a very different kind of performance, it reminded me of Joaquin Phoenix's own depiction of mental illness in last year's The Master) and one that'll probably get passed on by most audiences.
Blue Caprice hasn't played in more than 25 theaters since its release and the only theater playing it in New York City had one showtime at 10:50 in the morning. It's safe to say that it hasn't really taken off the way some may have hoped, which is a real shame. It holds two lead performance that are gripping in varied ways. Twenty-one year old Tequan Richmond, in a mostly wordless performance, is incredibly effective, playing off of Washington's bravura. His transformation into a cold-blooded sniper is incredibly haunting in its simplicity. There was probably more to the D.C. sniper than daddy issues, but Richmond's Lee is so naive, and yet so yearning for parental guidance that he's willing to take anything he can get. That there relationship, which could have been such a positive for both men, ended in the murder of innocent people is one of the great American tragedies of recent decades. Moors brooding meditation on the two men reveals their tragedies before they started killing.