"Blue Caprice" is an about-face to the typical psychological crime thriller. It's not lacquered in a C.S.I. sheen with cotton swabs and splatter patterns; nor does it validate the Beltway sniper attacks with an obscure humanity or slight social justification, or glorify the horror and violence; and finally, it doesn't mythologize the villain. On the other hand, it dresses down the crime in a more muted way under the direction of Alexander Moors.
The Beltway sniper attacks in 2002 outside of D.C. were perpetrated by John Allen Muhammad (Isiah Washington) and a younger boy, Lee Boyd Malvo (Tequan Richmond), who were black with Islamic fundamentalist leanings; so, not your standard issue wing-nut. The film also uses sound creative judgment in excluding the Islamic context. It should, because the thesis is ultimately about abandonment, alienation, and solitude. Details of the arrest revealed a gnarled father-son bond.
John, on the beach in Antigua with his three kids, is just as removed from reality as his kids: He's kidnapped them from his ex-wife. The children are reallocated when we meet a young drifter, Malvo, whose mother left him a cast-away. Fates are intertwined, as John piggybacks Malvo to Tacoma, Wash. as it tries to find its place somewhere in the American dream.
In the middle of nowhere, we witness John's coiled anger slowly unwind around Malvo, impressionable, and even more beached than before. John slowly mires into his dementia, a victim of the system, fantasies of interminable oppression under machinist masters, a la "The Matrix". John needs to take control because his ex-wife stole his life. A frankenstein father and son relationship is slowly patched to life as we're introduced to John's army buddy, backwoods and trigger happy, stylized with a Tim Blake Nelson treatment.
On a random day of playing guns in the woods, everyone finds out Malvo's hidden talent, finding a falcon's eye, and a sharp finger in the bulls-eye. Nelson's wife (Joey Lauren Adams) plays the mother hen, when John has nowhere else to go, adding another grotesque layer to the semblance of a family for Malvo. He's growing up in John's eyes, and is tested, when Melvo kills the witness point blank, fluid as the asphalt leading him to the point of no return. Blue Caprice is the notorious model of the snipers' vehicle. They gut the back seats and drill a hole in the trunk for the barrel to fit through leaving room for just a driver and a passenger as they drive the final juncture of their calculated rage across the country to Washington D.C. area where John's kids reside.
After charging a few thousand miles, they take a quick drag by his ex's house. John sinks into a deep nostalgia, a quiet voice still humming, "you can mend it." But Malvo shakes him out of it, saying, "It's not about them anymore." You have to wait though, for the final manifestation of John's creation, so dress warmly. Since the film doesn't feed it to you, you're left to hypothesize the motive. Perhaps, it satisfies a clean line between empowerment and residual guilt from serial killing face to face. Then again, Malvo did it. But did he feel anything? We don't know. There's no wince of doubt in Washington's picture of John, you can almost see his skin boil. As for Malvo, yes, only certain thoughts can be revealed through the texture of cinema, but his character is left to only cinematic devices: Soft focus, long takes, mash cuts, moody synthesizer music, and other assorted varieties. As appropriate for good independent filmmaking as it is, we could see more action defining his thoughts; although, Tequan Richmond effectively uses his instrument with what he's given. A father finds a son and a son finds a father but we find the danger in misdirected love.