Spielberg’s biopic about one of America’s most notoriously successful conmen might seem like a breezy affair with largely captivating performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken, but it does overstay its welcome at some point.
Dir. Steven Spielberg
2002 | USA | Biography/Crime/Drama | 141 mins | 1.85:1 | English & French
PG13 (passed clean) for some sexual content and brief language
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Nathalie Baye, Amy Adams, James Brolin
Plot: Barely 21 yet, Frank is a skilled forger who has passed as a doctor, lawyer and pilot. FBI agent Carl, becomes obsessed with tracking down the con man. But Frank not only eludes capture, he revels in the pursuit.
Awards: Nom. for 2 Oscars – Best Supporting Actor & Best Original Score
Subject Matter: Moderate – Cat & Mouse; Conman
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
In the same year that he released one of the finest sci-fi movies of the 2000s decade in Minority Report (2002), Steven Spielberg also made a decidedly lighter picture—Catch Me If You Can.
In his first and only collab with Leonardo DiCaprio (who also starred in Scorsese’s Gangs of New York that year), Spielberg brings the story of one of America’s most notoriously successful conmen to life.
Played by DiCaprio, Frank Abagnale Jr. masters the art of deception as he slyly if stylishly tricks his way up different professions—notably an airline pilot and a medical doctor—and obtains money through cheque forgery.
At more than two hours long, Catch Me If You Can does overstay its welcome even though it might feel like a breezy affair based on its easy-going tone.
“How’d you do it, Frank? How did you cheat on the bar exam in Louisiana?”
But while the pacing isn’t great, Spielberg manages to mitigate it somewhat by structuring the film in a non-linear fashion, which thankfully doesn’t make the storytelling an entirely straightforward (read: conventional) endeavour.
Here, we see Tom Hanks playing an FBI agent assigned to track down the criminal. Even in some early parts of the film, he’s already with Frank who’s caught; at other times, he’s being led on many wild goose chases.
The performances are largely captivating, including a memorable supporting turn by Christopher Walken, who plays Frank’s father.
While I didn’t fully enjoy the film as much I would have expected from a Spielberg ‘crime caper’, Catch Me If You Can is still, and perhaps most interesting, as a work of duality—of cat and mouse, of questions and answers, of needing the other or cease existing, though it is not necessarily very deeply engaged with its broad themes.
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