Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Review: Blue Caprice

Year: 2013
Director: Alexandre Moors
Screenplay: R.F.I. Porto
Starring: Isaiah Washington, Tequan Richmond, Joey Lauren Adams, Tim Blake Nelson, Leo Fitzpatrick

Synopsis is here

It’s an obvious theme to draw on but identity rears its head so much in Black African-American lead movies. So many “black” films deal culturally who they are as people, who they wish to be and of course how White America often perceives them. What interests me about Blue Caprice is the true story of the DC snipers that inspired the movie. When the story first broke, the suspects of the crimes we considered to be white gunman, who were army trained. This alone touches on the depth our cultural perceptions. The idea that the gunmen could be black seemed almost alien to people.

For me such institutionalised thought makes crimes like the one dramatised in Blue Caprice all the more frightening. To think that only some people will commit certain transgression will only allow the evil to flow quicker and easier.  Alexandre Moors’ film toys with the audience with this information. Hearing of America “striking back” during the Iraq spew forth from old T.V sets. The murderous plan that slowly uncovers during the film is full of jihad-like talk and yet it feels more like convenience than a true “calling”. Even more concreted elements of the plan fall to the wayside once we begin to follow the titled Blue Caprice which prowls the Washington highways like a rusted monster. The car takes on a persona of its own with its ordinariness becoming the most remarkable and threatening thing about it.  When we watch, we consider Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976). In the same way we wouldn’t suspect the taxi to hide such malevolence, we wouldn’t think twice about the Caprice.

Blue Caprice may not be as potent as Taxi Driver, but the comparisons are still strong. Caprice shows us lonely, confused men, hurt by the women in their life.  We see a mother who selfishly care only for herself and another (unseen) ex-wife and mother who does what she can to keep her children away from their father. We have an unfortunate boy with no parental figure and a father who only seems to create misfortune, by the way of kidnappings and restraining orders.  These men with no outlets for their repression meet through an unexpected circumstance and begin a relationship forged on their hurt. They blow off stream with shooting practice and wrestling in the woods.

 At first we pity the films youth; Lee (Richmond), as he like so many young black men is left with little guidance from his own parentage. As John (Washington) enters his life, he also enters his mind. Clouding it like the overcast weather that inhabits Washington DC. John’s behaviour reeks of deception, he mutters about his old neighbourhood as ghosts who ousted him once his relationship ended yet flitters around Lee (and the frame) like a malevolent apparition. Speaking to his protégé with an eerily calm yet forceful tone. At first their conversations never sound dangerous. Like the Caprice there’s an anonymity about them that shades the villainy.

Blue Caprice constantly hides in the grey and the shade, chilling the bones with its quietly tense nature. It’s the flecks of blood that creep you out more than the full act. The killings are non-descript and never gratuitous, their victims just seem to disappear or drop down dead. The fear hangs in the air like a foul smell. Any sadness we felt about the plight of the two swiftly melts into horror and frustration. It sympathy was felt, it will definitely be lost by the final frame.

But that’s if we had any to begin with. Moors’ film may feel a little too “sundance-like” with his shallow depth of field shots and remind one of Gus Van Sant’s Elephant with much of its blocking of Lee. But from its opening it craftily foreshadows the characters demise with its Hitchcock like framing of characters behind gates and bars. The film's use of light and shadow often obscures the faces of the lead, particularly in the beginning. The film keeps us at distance. Already making sure these people remain “unknown” to us. The last line is a question posed to a person of authority and us ourselves. It burrows to a depth we need from such a drama.  Despite having some of the screenplay’s weakest dialogue, it is far more open ended than you think on first glance, but plays into so much of what I’ve mentioned. When the question is asked, we wonder too. Because we realise what identities broken or missing can cultivate.