The sniper attacks that occurred around Washington D.C in 2002 would be perfect material for a tense Hollywood thriller that would follow an intense manhunt to track the killers, however “Blue Caprice” boldly goes in a different direction. An independent drama directed by Alexander Moors, the film is told solely from the killers’ point of view with almost no big-name actors onscreen. If it wasn’t for archive news footage shown at the very beginning this would seem like an intense character study of a bizarre father-son relationship. It is frightening and shocking how this initially caring bond resulted into senseless random murders.
The two main characters first meet in the Caribbean island of Antigua where young boy Lee (Tequan Richmond) is abandoned by his mother. He strikes a friendship with his neighbor John (Isaiah Washington), a seemingly kind man who is taking care of his three children. Months later the two have moved to the D.C area and things have changed. John now introduces Lee as his son, while his real children are no longer in his custody.
Walking through a suburban neighborhood, John goes on a rant against the evil in this world and about wanting to strike back at all the undesirables. Lumped up in his list of bad people is a woman who testified against him in his custody hearing and he makes sure Lee sees where she lives. While going for a run in the woods they run into Ray (Tim Blake Nelson), a friend of John who lets off steam by firing guns. He lets Lee have a go with a rather large one he affectionately calls the Widowmaker, which is sadly appropriate. “The kid’s a natural,” Ray notices after Lee hits the target.
Having nowhere to go John and Lee start to live at Ray’s place with his wife Jamie (Joey Lauren Adams). Over time the two start working on a special project involving a blue Chevrolet Caprice, Ray’s gun collection, and books on snipers. While picking up groceries at the supermarket John lays out his plan about how all it would take to instill panic in the world would be a few bodies every day. Since their targets would be random they could be invisible.
Instead of focusing on the killings, the story is all about the relationship between John and Lee, who are indeed initially invisible to society. They seem harmless enough and at first Jamie has no problem with letting them inside her home with her baby. Whereas John comes off as charismatic and well spoken, Lee is quiet and reserved. Yet when he kills for the first time it has almost no effect on him and he can easily do it again with alarming efficiency.
Even though it is always Lee who pulls the trigger, John has a lot of blame to bear. He is clearly the dominant force in the relationship, capable of kindness but also of cruelty. Like any father he teaches his son how to drive ye one time he also takes him into the woods and ties him to a tree for the night as some sort of teaching moment.
It is obviously impossible to know if this is how the real killers behaved, but as a character study “Blue Caprice” is mesmerizing. Despite having very little dialogue and a slow pace, the performances by Richmond as the initially innocent young man and Washington as his adopted father make for a thrilling drama.
(“Blue Caprice” is out on DVD and Blu-Ray and is streaming on Netflix.)