Who can forget the notorious “Beltway snipers,” who shot and killed random people in the D.C. area and terrorized everybody. Now comes “Blue Caprice,” named for the car that eluded police for too long because of its “invisibility” as opposed to the white van the killers were supposedly holed up in. It’s based on the real story and begins with actual news footage overlaid by audio of the 911 calls, but it seeks not to give us a biopic or docu-style thriller but rather a character study of John Allen Muhammed and his young protegee, Lee Boyd Malvo.
It begins on the Caribbean island of Antigua where Malvo has been abandoned by this mother and wanders the streets aimlessly – until he meets Muhammed, an American ex-military man who’s frolicking on the beach with his three kids. Muhammed seems like the ideal father and soon Malvo is falling under his spell. When it turns out that Muhammed has kidnapped the three kids and eventually has to return them to their mother, Malvo buys the older man’s story that he’s being persecuted unfairly by, well, just about everyone. Muhammed is a man who, it becomes clearer and clearer, is psychotic with rages about his ex-wife, his country, his race, you name it. It’s all everybody else’s fault. Malvo lives with him in the Tacoma, Washington area for awhile, staying here and there, learning to become an expert shooter. Their relationship is a complicated father-son one as Muhammed preys on the boy’s vulnerability and neediness. Their drive to the D.C. area and the killings themselves only happen after we’re two-thirds into the film and they’re not the focal point. The director is clearly trying to get inside their heads, and in that sense the movie works well.
Isaiah Washington, who plays Muhammed and executive produced the film, is truly haunting and in another Oscar season, not as loaded with great performances in bigger films, he might have been singled out for his. And I liked that the film didn’t go for sensationalism and violence. It’s about violent people but didn’t take the bloody route. Still, it moved at a snail’s pace and ultimately left me wondering why bother.