Many Americans still remember the Beltway sniper attacks of 2002. Ten DC-area people were killed and a number injured before the shooters, an adult and a teenager, were caught. Since then, the story has been told in books, TV specials, and documentaries, and adapted in movie dramatizations.
Blue Caprice is the latest in this last category, but instead of centering on the attacks, it imagines the circumstances that caused the pair to become killers. It’s sort of a prequel.
In the film’s telling, Lee (Tequan Richmond) is abandoned by his mother in Antigua and rescued by John (Isaiah Washington), an American tourist. John takes the boy home to Tacoma. They live a seedy, transient life. Lee is found to have a natural affinity for the Bushmaster rifle.
As Houston Chronicle writer Jeff Millar would have said, John has eels in the brain. He sees conspiracies, and he decides to bring down the system with random violence. He trains Lee to be an assassin.
Critics have complained that the sequence of events and motives are unclear in the film. I’m not particularly bothered. Washington does a fine job portraying a disturbed, angry man; I don’t think I’d care to go any further inside John’s head than the film takes me. Richmond is also effective as the cryptic 17-year-old. Some people are just opaque.
Late in the movie, we get a bit of suspense in one scene, where one potential victim after another is fixed in the rifle’s crosshairs. And there are smaller tense moments earlier in the film. But this is no gore-fest; the interest is in exploring the characters, not exploiting the mayhem.