Catch Me if You Can (2002), Cert 12A.

Director - Steven Spielberg.

Writer - Jeff Nathanson.

Starring - Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen & Jennifer Garner.

 

Premise Ė Based on a true story, Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a 16 year old from a loving family. His father, Frank Snr (Christopher Walken) met his mother during military service in France during WW2. Soon after he learns of his parentís divorce Frank Jr. becomes one of the most notorious con men in US history cashing millions of dollars in fraudulent cheques and pretending to be an airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer, amongst others. On his tail is Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), an FBI fraud expert who will go to any lengths to catch Abagnale.

There is nothing particularly deep or meaningful about Catch Me if You Can, it is for the most part an enjoyable bit of light entertainment. Spielberg is one of those few directors that can flit effortlessly from light material like this film and heavy drama such as say, ĎSaving Private Ryaní. This is not a flashy Spielberg movie, itís a simple movie and a simple story and itís a refreshingly breezy film from a director who can get depressing with the best of them.

As light as the film is there are some darker undertones to be found. We follow Frank Jnr. around the world as he carries out his various conís and in the process beds a procession of beautiful women. Frankís life is painted as being glamorous and exciting, only in fleeting glimpses do we see the reality. Near the beginning we see Frank looking gaunt and shabby in a French prison, so we know that at some point he does get caught.

Also every Christmas Frank phones Hanratty, not to taunt him, but rather (as Hanratty deduces) because he has no one else to phone. Franks life is ultimately hollow, he has everything he could possibly want, but he is still lonely enough to call his pursuer on Christmas Eve. The break up of Frankís parents is a trying time for him and ultimately acts as the catalyst which spurs him into his life of crime.

One thing that I really enjoyed about this film is the performance by Christopher Walken an actor that I can watch in practically anything. His unique speech pattern is spellbinding and I am glued to the screen when he is occupying it. Here he brings a quiet sadness to Frank Snr, he is a very proud man who has always provided for his family. So when he finds himself in financial trouble he takes it hard, probably contributing to the break up of his marriage. The look in Walkens eyes is amazing and he completely inhabits the role, this yearís best supporting actor Oscar race looks to be hotly contested indeed.

Of course, the star of the show is DiCaprio and his Frank Jnr is a suave, charismatic man who is quick to think on his feet. Although in his late 20ís DiCaprioís youthful looks allow him to convincingly play a late teen and his natural charm gives him the perfect tools to play such a debonair character. With this film and Gangs of New York, DiCaprio is finally fulfilling the early promise he showed all those years ago.

Opposite DiCaprio is Tom Hanks (with an excellent accent) who is wonderful as Hanratty. He is an agent that has little in the way of personality, but he is passionate about his work and through chasing and studying Abagnale he builds up a respect for him. Hanks is as funny here as he has been in a long time, contributing the lionís share of the films funnier moments. 

Martin Sheen pops up late in the film as a southern lawyer as does Jennifer Garner as a high class hooker. If you donít know who Garner is then you soon will. She has a starring role as Elektra in the upcoming ĎDaredevilí comic book adaptation and she has the acting chops to be a big name. Do yourself a favour and check out the TV series ĎAliasí if you need any further proof of her Golden Globe wining abilities.

The period setting of Catch Me if You Can has been impeccably recreated here and is beautifully filmed by long time Spielberg cohort Janusz Kaminski. Everything from the fashions to the airports to the cars looks like they were plucked out of the 60ís. Also adding to the authentic period feel is the score by John Williams. Making up for his recent carbon copy orchestral scores, Williams instead opts for a nice little bit off jazz. Combine the excellent score with a nice use of the times most popular music and you have a convincing recreation of the time.

Clocking in at 140 minutes, the film does feel long winded at times, especially in the final 20 minutes. You would think that Spielberg would have learned from his 2 previous films (A.I. & Minority Report) which were both guilty of dragging the ending out when it wasnít required. But, again we find ourselves watching a Spielberg film with a completely unneeded epilogue; it feels tacked on and at the end of the day adds little to the film as a whole.

Small niggles aside, if youíre looking for a nice bit of light entertainment, that isnít going to tax the brain too much then Catch Me if You Can is about as good as it gets. When you get such great acting and directing talents in a small movie like this it is incredibly refreshing. If it wasnít for the odd swear word and sex scene then I would recommend this for all the family, but as it stands itís a film more than worthy of your time.

 

/10.

See Catch Me if You Can if you enjoyed - Minority Report, Forrest Gump.

Poster Quote - Catch it when you can.