Review: Chilling thriller ‘Blue Caprice’ revisits Beltway sniper case

There’s nary a wasted word or visual in “Blue Caprice,” a superb, slow-boil of a thriller revisiting the case of Beltway snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, who terrorized the nation’s capital in fall 2002. (The movie’s appearance in theaters the same week as the Washington Navy Yard massacre feels, to say the least, startlingly coincidental.)

Directed by Alexandre Moors from a script by R.F.I. Porto, the film — with some creative license — tracks the relationship between the angry, manipulative John (a masterful Isaiah Washington) and the quiet, susceptible Lee (an equally fine Tequan Richmond) and the irrevocable steps that led to their notorious murders.

At the start, John is seen vacationing with his children on Antigua (in actuality, the divorced dad has kidnapped his kids; his ex-wife has a restraining order against him) when he meets lonely, 16-year-old Lee, whose mother has left the country for work.


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Once establishing a father-son dynamic, John takes Lee to Tacoma, Wash., where they crash with John’s old Army pal, Ray (Tim Blake Nelson), and Ray’s careless wife (Joey Lauren Adams). Lee, facilitated by gun buff Ray, proves a surprise sure-shot and becomes the perfect pawn for John’s long-simmering plan to “bring down the system.”

After being trained by John, Lee — disciplined, dead-eyed — starts to kill in a twisted show of filial love. The pair then moves to Maryland, where all hell breaks loose as Lee coolly dispatches his arbitrary string of victims under John’s steely, maniacal eye.

Moors wisely takes a restrained, nonsensational approach to these well-documented murders, presenting them in a late-breaking, efficient, yet still-unnerving montage.

“Blue Caprice,” named for the killers’ tricked-out assault vehicle, proves a highly auspicious feature debut for Moors and Porto as well as a much-deserved return to the limelight for Washington. Don’t miss it.

“Blue Caprice.” MPAA rating: R for disturbing violent content, language and brief drug use. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. At Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood.