Sundance Film Review: Blue Caprice (dir by Alexandre Moors)


(The Sundance Film Festival is currently taking place in Utah.  This week, I am reviewing films that premiered at and/or received a prize at Sundance.  Tonight, I take a look at the 2013 film, Blue Caprice.)

When we first meet Lee (Tequan Richmond), he is fifteen years old and living in poverty in Antigua.  One morning, he watches as his mother gets in a car with a strange man.  Before she goes, she tells Lee that she has no choice but to leave and that she will return.  Lee says nothing as his mother is driven away.

Lee’s mother doesn’t return.  Lee spends his time sitting in an empty house.  He wanders through the nearby woods.  Sometimes, he goes to a nearby town and walks around aimlessly.  It’s in that town where he first sees John (Isaiah Washington).  John is an American who is living on the island with his three children.  John spots Lee watching him and soon, Lee is eating dinner at John’s house.  John’s children ask if Lee is going to be living with them.  John says that he doesn’t know.  They ask if they can see their mother.  John explains that, if they see their mother, they’ll no longer be able to spend time with him.

Months later, John and Lee are in Tacoma, Washington.  The children are back with their mother.  John tells Lee that America is full of lies.  He says that all women lie.  He says that the army lied to him.  John says that he just wants to get his children back.  John tells everyone that they meet that Lee is his son.  John says that he loves Lee but, when John visits an old girlfriend, he has no hesitation about telling Lee to go walk around for a while.  Lee ends up staring at the speaker at a fast food drive-through in amazement.  “Do you have cheap burgers?” he asks.

John and Lee keep moving and eventually end up living with an old army friend of John’s.  Ray (Tim Blake Nelson) is a good-natured redneck.  He enjoys playing video games, smoking weed, and shooting guns.  When Lee shoots one of Ray’s guns, Ray declares Lee to be a natural.  John stares at the gun in Lee’s hand.

When he’s not trying to track down his ex-wife and children, John trains Lee.  He ties Lee up and abandons him in the woods, forcing Lee to figure out how to escape.  (“DAD!” Lee shouts as John walks away from him.)  He gives Lee a sniper manual to study.  He explains to Lee that the first step to destroying society is to make people panic.  He says that it’s important to kill random people.  After killing a man, they’ll kill a woman.  After killing a woman, they’ll kill a child.  No one will feel safe.  When Lee shows reluctance about John’s plans, John demands to know if Lee loves him…

Blue Caprice is based on a true story.  In 2002, John Muhammad and Lee Malvo shot 27 people in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., killing 17 of them.  The title of the film comes from the car that Muhammad and Malvo lived in during their shooting spree.  Significantly, throughout the film, John and Lee are referred to only by their first names. Though the film may have been inspired by their actual crimes, Blue Caprice never claims to be an exact recreation of what happened.  Instead, the film speculates about how John was able to turn a directionless teenager into a killer.

It makes for a chilling film.  Isaiah Washington plays John as being a chameleon, a man who is so empty on the inside that he’s become very good at fooling people into believing that he’s whatever they want him to be.  John is the type who can spend the morning plotting to overthrow the government, the afternoon trying to fool a school principal into telling him where his children are now living, and the evening grilling burgers and laughing with the neighbors.  The film leaves no doubt to John’s evil but it’s attitude towards Lee is more ambiguous.  Tequan Richmond captures the transformation of Lee from being a withdrawn teenager to a cold-blooded killer.  Was Lee capable of being a killer before he met John or was he transformed by the older man?  That’s the question that both the film and the audience struggles with.

Blue Caprice got good reviews when it played at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, thought it was ultimately overshadowed by Fruitvale Station.  It’s a disturbing film and not an optimistic one, which is perhaps why, post-Sundance, it never received quite as much attention as it deserved.  It may not be a pleasant film to watch but it is one that definitely leaves an impression.

Previous Sundance Film Reviews:

  1. Blood Simple
  2. I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
  3. Circle of Power
  4. Old Enough

The Oscar Season Begins With The Gotham Nominations!


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Can you guess what my favorite time of year is?

If you guessed November, you’re right!  My birthday is on November 9th, our own Dazzling Erin’s birthday is on November 24th, and then Arleigh’s birthday is on November 27th!  November is a big month here at the Shattered Lens.

My second favorite time of year?  October, of course!  How can you go wrong with so much horror?

And then, of course, my third favorite time of year is December because that’s when I get most of my presents.

Along with being my favorite three months of the year, another thing that all three of those months have in common is that they comprise what is known as Oscar Season.  Oscar Season is the period of time when the majority of the Best Picture contenders are released and all of the critic groups give out their awards in the hope of influencing the Academy’s nominations.  I love movies and I love awards so how can I not love Oscar Season?

Well, I’m happy to say that Oscar Season officially began earlier today when the nominations for the 23rd annual Gotham Independent Film Awards were announced.  The Gotham nominations aren’t exactly the best precursor of what’s going to be nominated in January but, nonetheless, they usually manage to include at least a few legitimate contenders.

This year, for example, Oscar front-runner 12 Years A Slave managed to collect the most Gotham nominations.  Personally, I’m just happy to see that my favorite film of 2013, Upstream Color, collected two nominations.

The Gothams will be awarded on December 2nd.

Here are the nominations:

Best Feature

12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen, director; Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Bill Pohlad, Steve McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Anthony Katagas, producers. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

David Lowery, director; Tony Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Amy Kaufman, Cassian Elwes, producers (IFC Films)

Before Midnight

Richard Linklater, director; Richard Linklater, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Sara Woodhatch, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

Inside Llewyn Davis

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, directors; Scott Rudin, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, producers (CBS Films)

Upstream Color

Shane Carruth, director; Shane Carruth, Casey Gooden, Ben LeClair, producers. (erbp)

 

Best Documentary

The Act of Killing

Joshua Oppenheimer, director; Signe Byrge, Joshua Oppenheimer, producers (Drafthouse Films)

The Crash Reel

Lucy Walker, director; Julian Cautherly, Lucy Walker, producers (HBO Documentary Films)

First Cousin Once Removed

Alan Berliner, director and producer (HBO Documentary Films)

Let the Fire Burn

Jason Osder, director and producer (Zeitgeist Films)

Our Nixon

Penny Lane, director; Brian L. Frye, Penny Lane, producers (Cinedigm and CNN Films)

 

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company)

Adam Leon for Gimme the Loot (Sundance Selects)

Alexandre Moors for Blue Caprice (Sundance Selects)

Stacie Passon for Concussion (RADiUS-TWC)

Amy Seimetz for Sun Don’t Shine (Factory 25)

 

Best Actor

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films)

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)

Robert Redford in All Is Lost (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

Isaiah Washington in Blue Caprice (Sundance Selects)

 

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics)

Scarlett Johansson in Don Jon (Relativity Media)

Brie Larson in Short Term 12 (Cinedigm)

Amy Seimetz in Upstream Color (erbp)

Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now (A24)

 

Breakthrough Actor

Dane DeHaan in Kill Your Darlings (Sony Pictures Classics)

Kathryn Hahn in Afternoon Delight (The Film Arcade and Cinedigm)

Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company)

Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Robin Weigert in Concussion (RADiUS-TWC)

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