Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Jeff Nathanson
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Nathalie Baye
Talents do not follow the moral and legal standings of society, which makes it difficult for someone talented in something illicit to not share their skills. For the young man we follow in Catch Me If You Can, he utilizes his uncanny ability for forgery and lies to pull off some of the most remarkable cons ever.
Following the divorce of his parents, Frank Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio) begins to forge checks and notices he can cash them at local banks. He utilizes his uncanny ability to grift to pose as a pilot, doctor, and lawyer, which provides him an exciting life except for the FBI hot on his tail.
Combining the talents of Steven Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Tom Hanks into one movie could only possibly yield tremendous results, which we gladly received in Catch Me If You Can. A film willing to take a look at the impact of a father in a young man’s life and the exploration of how much one person can get away with before their reckoning arrives. For different stretches throughout the film, the tone balances between a strong drama and a fun heist film in an impeccable manner. It brings the sentimentality one would expect from a Spielberg film and overall displays this director’s strongest features.
The heist aspect brings the entertainment of this feature with Frank having the ability to essentially get out of any sticky situation that comes his way with his silver tongue. One of the more comedic examples comes from his time as a doctor and he’s asked to consult on an ongoing case. The way Frank finds ways out of having to prove his expertise just becomes hilarious, which makes him the ultimate con artist. He certainly got this from his father but takes it to a completely different level. Frank becomes someone we enjoy following because of the charisma on display by the actor portraying him but also because of the pure bliss that comes with watching someone excel in their craft. It’s the inherent feature contributing to the popularity of heist films. At times they can give justifications for their illicit activities, but morality never really matters.
Hot on Frank’s tail, we have Carl Hanratty portrayed beautifully by Tom Hanks. He becomes the bogeyman for Frank, as Carl remains on his trail no matter how many times the young forger tries to shake him off. The dynamic between Frank and Carl provides the exhilarating chase of this story, but also gets to the heart of what Spielberg wants to tell with this film. Both DiCaprio and Hanks provide solid work with these two characters. DiCaprio gets offensively charming and instantly proves why he was always the best person to cast in this role. He harbored a youthful naivete and combined it with an insecurity we can all relate to. Make no mistake, this film anchors fully on father figures and the impact it can have on young men like Frank. His father could not measure up, which leads to trying to find it in others. The eventual answer seems obvious to us but not to Frank.
Outside of the leading two stars, the rest of the cast brings loads of talent and utilizes their limited screen time to leave their imprint in the film. Other cast members include Amy Adams, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Ellen Pompeo, Elizabeth Banks, and Jennifer Garner. Many of the women had this feature help launch them into the roles that have brought them fame in their careers. The most prominent of these side characters is Frank’s father portrayed by Christopher Walken. He becomes the crux of the story with the different interactions he shares with Frank and how it moves the protagonist to act in different ways. Walken’s portrayal of Frank Abagnale Sr. truly pushes the plot forward on several occasions and becomes integral to the central message of the movie.
Spielberg’s career can be tracked in the way his stories speak on fatherhood. Many of his films hinge on the relationships between fathers and their children. The impact of his personal life certainly reverberates into films like Close Encounters of a Third Kind, E.T., Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, War of the Worlds, and the film I am currently reviewing. You can almost track how Speilberg feels about father figures when watching these films in release order. He succeeds with Catch Me If You Can because it serves as a turning point in the relationship with his father and it certainly translates when looking at the characters of Frank and Carl.
Slick, flashy, and with plenty of fun, Catch Me If You Can will have you wondering when Frank will finally get caught. The ride to his reckoning comes with several moments of hilarious deceit, which will make you question how certain people even get these prestigious jobs he simply walks into. It challenges the level of honesty someone can have if they spend every waking moment trying to deceive everyone around them. A true conundrum and one told with the excellence we can expect with the incredible director and cast tasked with bringing this film to a broader audience.