Catch Me If You Can (2002)
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"Here's a little move Walken tought me."
Just six months ago, Steven Spielberg dazzled us with one of the greatest science fiction films in recent memory, Minority Report (although I'd like to give a shout out to Solaris as well). For the holidays, the famed director has delivered us a wonderful Christmas present called Catch Me if You Can, a subtle, straight forward charmer, fueled by terrific performances and Spielberg's sharp storytelling skills.
Catch Me if You Can was inspired by the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr., the youngest man ever put on the F.B.I.'s most wanted list. Abagnale was an expert forgeror and made away with over a million dollars all before the age of eighteen.
Following a fantastically creative opening credits sequence, The story picks up early on as we see what prompts Abagnale (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) to do what he does. After creatively impersonating a variety of characters and making off with quite a bundle of cash, the youngster is pursued by wise F.B.I. agent Carl Hanratty (played by Tom Hanks) who, despite botching Abagnale's capture on several occasions, begins to get a psychological grasp on the situation.
DiCaprio is fantastic here, and hopefully, people will see him for the talented force he is. This is probably his best work since What's Eating Gilbert Grape. He brings energy and a sense of lonliness to the role of Abagnale and his chemistry with an equally effective Hanks really lifts this movie to another level. Catch Me if You Can also features a stellar supporting cast, most notably the charismatic Christopher Walken, absolutely charming as Abagnale's father.
Catch Me if You Can is a smaller film for Spielberg who's last few pictures (Saving Private Ryan, A.I. and Minority Report) have been larger in scope. This doesn't make it any less impressive. Once again, this guy delivers the goods with a movie that is light, carefree, and an absolute beauty to look at. It's also punctuated by some classic tunes and a fantastic, jazzy score by John Williams.
While there may be moments in this picture where Abagnale's methods of theft might be a bit hard for audiences to swallow, keep in mind that this stuff all went down in the 60's (and this film feels as if it could have been made in the 60's). Obviously, we live in much more cynical times now.
What I like most about this light cat and mouse chase is the father/son dynamic that brews between Hanks and DiCaprio. These fine actors deftly play two individuals who fill the void in each other's sad hearts, and I really got sucked into that. Interestingly, Abagnale and Hanratty are both the protagonist and the antagonist, and Spielberg balances this story so effortlessly, that I watched most of Catch Me if You Can with a big grin on my face. I loved both these characters and wanted them both to win.
I'd also like to point out that Spielberg is often critisized for the way many of his films end (be it the so called happy ending of Minority Report or the drawn out sentimentality of A.I.). I don't know that I entirely agree with that, but I will say that Catch Me if You Can has a perfectly sublime ending. It is both realistic and satisfying for the audience.
With Catch Me if You Can and Minority Report, Spielberg has had a banner year that rivals 1993, when he released Jurassic Park and Schindler's List (my all time favorite film) within a twelve month period. I'm not implying that Catch Me if You Can is a better picture then Schindler's List, but walking out of this movie certainly left me all warm and fuzzy inside. You can't ask for anything more from a film during the holdiays.
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