There’s something incredibly exhilarating about living the dangerous life of a conman vicariously through Frank Abagnale Jr. for roughly two and a half hours, without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home. Leonardo DiCaprio stars in Catch Me If You Can, a story that’s based off true events, which sees Frank being chased by the FBI (well, one agent in particular) for years on end before finally being captured. Don’t worry, there’s no spoiler there, as he’s already in prison when the film begins; and besides, the film isn’t about the inevitable conclusion – but the chase it takes us to get there.
Part of the magic of Catch Me If You Can is the time period in which it’s set, as the story takes place in the 1960s. The film was made over a decade ago, and even then it was amazing to watch how easy it was for Frank to pull off some of these cons, simply due to the lack of technology, and the pure smarts (and grapefruits the size of…well, as big as they get) on Frank’s part. After his family loses everything, and his mother divorces his father, Frank decides to run away from home instead of having to decide which parent to choose to live with, and in doing so, all but finalizes the end of his parent’s love in his own mind.
On the run, Frank takes a checkbook his father gave him, and also begins to hone some of the conman tricks his father taught him as well. Of course, his father was a smooth talker, but nowhere as natural at the con game as his son would become. At first it’s not easy for Frank, however, as his checks continuously bounce, and he’s constantly being thrown out of hotels. Needless to say, he realizes he needs to get a job, and the most obvious job for a kid with little education and no credentials to his name is to of course become a pilot – and that’s just what Frank does.
It may sound ridiculous – and it kind of is – but it totally works, and it’s even somewhat understandable as to how Frank was able to slip by all that time without ever being caught. It’s quite incredible actually, and immensely entertaining to watch unfold, as the pilot con is just one of many that he pulls off in fantastic fashion.
Tom Hanks co-stars as FBI agent Carl Hanratty, (“That’s Hanratty!” as he states multiple times throughout) the man who eventually brings down young Mr. Abagnale after years of tracking him. Hanks and DiCaprio have wonderful chemistry, even though they spend a majority of the film apart. There’s a bond between them, and with how young Frank is (he pulled off all of this before the age of 21!), Hanratty can be viewed on some level as a parental figure of sorts; of course, punishment for Frank in his eyes is federal prison, and not the weekend in his room, but I digress.
Steven Spielberg directs the film, and he nails everything on every level, though who would expect anything less from the man. Spielberg and his crew capture the era perfectly, with sets so simple, yet elaborate and natural feeling, that you’re never broken out of the film until it wants you to be.
The pacing of the film works incredibly well, as the time just flies by while watching. We know early on that Frank is captured, so the story leading up to that point is told through flashbacks that jump just often enough between the past and the present where he’s captured, that it all flows smoothly. And even though we know he’s caught, the film is structured so well that it still leaves the viewer guessing as to where it is that Frank must eventually slip up, while also wondering what this resourceful young man may have up his sleeve even at the point of his capture.
Catch Me If You Can is an incredibly well made film, which really sucks you into the era and the story. Frank is such a likeable kid, that even though he’s stealing and conning everyone around him, we know deep down he means well, and isn’t looking to hurt anybody. It’s because of this that his journey is fun, and an enjoyable ride to take alongside him.
There are some moments that lack an emotional tug that would’ve helped make the scene a bit stronger; however, that’s the life Frank chose to lead, and the journey we chose to take with him – no time for emotional baggage, because all it’ll do is slow you down, and if you slow down, you get caught. That doesn’t mean there’s no emotion to be found, it’s just not hammered in, because that’s not the film’s style. And as lame and predictable as the line is: do yourself a favour and “catch” this movie.
The Blu-ray transfer for this film looks great, and the sound is just as good. Both combine to make this a wonderful Blu-ray transfer for one of Spielberg’s lesser-known films, and one definitely worth picking up.
The special features for Catch Me If You Can show their age much more than the film does, with some fullscreen pieces being found here. Still, that doesn’t detract from how solid the information that comes from them are – it just makes them a little more hideous to look at while taking it all in.
Catch Me If You Can: Behind the Camera – This feature is 17 minutes in length, and has interviews with Spielberg talking about why he got on board to direct it, as well as the real Frank Abagnale on set with Spielberg, and various other production notes of how this film came to be.
CAST Me If You Can: The Casting of the Film – Here we five interviews intertwined with clips from the film about why certain actors chose to came on board. It’s only six minutes in total, but there’s some bits of information that are quite interesting – such as the fact that DiCaprio being the one who pretty much got Spielberg on board, when DiCaprio never even thought he was an option.
Scoring: Catch Me If You Can – This is John Williams talking for five minutes about scoring the film, and how they’ve worked on 20 films together, which is quite an accomplishment. Though, can you really blame Spielberg for the repeat business?
Frank Abagnale: Between Reality and Fiction – The thing I find most frustrating about these special features (besides the black bars from hell) is the lack of a “Play All” button at the top of these multi-featurette sections. Having to constantly click on each bit, then having the screen need to adjust from the HD menu to the SD format the bonus features are shot in gets tiresome. Regardless, this section of features sees Spielberg and DiCaprio talk about Frank, the person, and why his story was perfect for a movie.
The FBI Perspective – This featurette is seven minutes in length and shows how a former FBI agent functioned as a technical advisor on set to help advise the script for authenticity, as well as how the agents conduct themselves and so forth.
Catch Me If You Can: In Closing – Here is a quick five minute feature where we hear from the usual suspects above, but also Frank Abagnale who sits down and talks about the movie, how it reflects most events in his life, and how Spielberg was tasked with taking five years of his life and fitting it all into a two hour movie.
It’s very likely that when most people think Spielberg, they don’t think Catch Me If You Can. This isn’t surprising, but that doesn’t make the film any less great. The acting is superb, the set design and direction is fantastic, and the story and pacing are effortless to watch. This is definitely a film you don’t want to miss. Highly Recommended.
Dreamworks Pictures presents Catch Me If You Can. Directed by: Steven Spielberg. Written by: Jeff Nathanson. Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Nathalie Baye, Amy Adams, James Brolin, Jennifer Garner. Running time: 141 minutes. Rating: PG. Released: December 4, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.