What made these killings so unnerving was that there was no pattern or motive. Age, gender and race were not of issue to Muhammad and Malvo, which meant no one was safe, and everyone was freaked the fucked out.
The whole area was paralyzed by fear – a unique paranoia that turned everyone into a potential victim. And, sadly, it is that distinct brand of fear that is virtually absent from Blue Caprice, the new film based on these killings.
The Beltway Sniper Attacks, as they are now called, make for a rather cinematic story. Murders, brainwashing, lock downs, manhunts – in the right hands, Blue Caprice could be a Zodiac-style paranoid thriller. Never gratuitous and never cheap, but terrifying and patient. Instead, the film is a 90-minute bore lacking any semblance of the terror that the real events evoked.
But, to be clear, and maybe this detail will help save the film for some of you, Blue Caprice is not about the attacks. Hell, it’s not even about the planning of the attacks. It’s about how one great and angry manipulator convinced an easily susceptible kid to do whatever the hell he told him to. Seventy minutes of the film are dedicated to the backstory of Muhammad and Malvo, five of which are somewhat interesting. From there, the film cuts to a brief and puzzlingly dull montage of the crimes, which is mostly long tracking shots of the blue Caprice driving slowly on highways. It’s the kind of movie that, if you were completely unaware of the Beltway Sniper Attacks, you would have no idea what the hell was going on, or why.
The film, which premiered at Sundance in January, is being touted as Isaiah Washington’s return to dramatic acting. Following his controversial Grey’s Anatomy dismissal a few years ago, John Allen Muhammad seemed like a conflicted, important role for Washington to dive into. The result makes for a spirited performance in a wildly one-note film. Washington gives it his all, but the material isn’t suited for his talent. Same can be said for Tequan Richmond, who plays Malvo with about as much fervor as the film will allow, which is very little. (For kicks, Joey Lauren Adams shows up as a piece of white trash who offers to have sex with Muhammad roughly eight seconds after meeting him. This has nothing to do with anything and only acts as filler in a film full of it.)
Look, I’m really not one to knock the work of new filmmakers. This is Alexandre Moors’ first feature film, and although the story is weak, I’m confident that Moors will go on to make better, more compelling pictures. Truth is, I probably wouldn’t have reviewed Blue Caprice if I hadn’t lived through these events myself. Muhammad and Malvo were caught at a rest stop located 20 miles from the home I grew up in. It was an unsettling end to a haunting spree. Yet another thing Blue Caprice depicts with a complete lack of conviction. D