Blue Caprice ★★★

In 2002 the Washington area was gripped with fear after a series of random and seemingly senseless sniper attacks resulted in the deaths of ten people. It was big news across the globe made all the more chilling as there was no rhyme or reason to the killers’ targets. Blue Caprice, the debut feature from Alexandre Moors, attempts to explore the events that led up to the random murders.

Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond star as the two men responsible for the killings dubbed the Beltway sniper attacks. Beginning months before the attacks in Antigua, Lee (Richmond) an impressionable teen abandoned by his own mother, is taken in by Washington’s John, a seemingly benevolent family man on holiday with his children. However, it doesn’t take long to discover that John has taken his children away without their mother’s consent and when they all return to the USA John loses his family whilst latching onto Lee and filling his head with dangerous ideas.

Blue Caprice is a deliberately paced character study exploring the unhealthy relationship between a boy and his warped father-figure. John rallies against a world he deems unfair whilst bringing the loyal and unquestioning Lee into this corrupted and violent world view. Although the film never justifies their heinous actions it does attempt to explain how such an impressionable young man could so blindly follow a psychopath.

Given that this is a debut feature Moors command of the film is impressive. Although the script doesn’t quite get under the skin of its two killers (perhaps it never really could when there is no real rationale for their crimes) Moors creates an oppressive slow-burn atmosphere that gradually builds towards the inevitable and disturbing climax. It’s a film that shuns sensationalism whilst its intimate focus on the disturbed father-son relationship works well, up to a point.

Yet it never quite feels the sum of its parts and I can’t quite put my finger on why. The performances are solid across the board with Isaiah Washington being the standout, but I felt there was always a distance between the audience and characters. Unlike Snowtown, another real life story about the dangers of a corrupting father-figure, the film struggles to get inside the mind of either individual despite the film’s constant focus on the pair. It’s a shame as it is a crucial element that holds the film back.

Blue Caprice is an assured but frustratingly distant true life story.

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