Catch Me If You Can Blu-ray Review
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN was part of a frothy twosome that Steven Spielberg did along with THE TERMINAL. He probably wanted a break from the serious dark tones of MINORITY REPORT and A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. This film won’t be remembered as one of Spielberg’s best, but it is still thoroughly enjoyable and watchable.
The film tells the tale of a real life con man who circled the globe passing fraudulent checks. The kicker was the con man being a teenage boy. Frank Abaganale Jr (played winningly by Leonardo DiCaprio) had a nice middle class life surrounded by two parents (Christophen Walken, Nathalie Baye) who loved him. This all came apart when the IRS came looking for Sr and the marriage proceeded to fall apart. There is a powerful scene where court officials are trying to get Frank to decide who he is going to live with after the divorce. The panic is palpable in Frank’s eyes and captured nicely by DiCaprio. This is the catalyst for Frank to run away and start his crime spree.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is essentially a cat and mouse game between Frank and FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks). Screenwriter Jeff Nathanson shows a deft touch in bouncing around in time and showing Frank’s early failures. The real Frank Abaganale Jr. has stated that 90% of what is presented was true. Nathanson had the tricky part of what to show and what not to show. He also had to stretch the truth in trying to capture the essence of this brazen thief. One liberty he did take was the relationship between Frank and his father. In real life Frank never saw his father again after he ran away from home. In the film he visits him periodically and updates his situation. It was smart move keeping this relationship alive for the viewers to show what motivated Frank and what him tick. I think it grounds this character and shows some depth where you sympathize more with him. It may be wrong to do this, but Frank wasn’t exactly stealing from individuals. He was stealing from big corporations that could more easily absorb his fraud. This story could resonate even more now with the talk of the 1% and 99 % and how many people are angry with our government, corporations and the powerful banks.
The movie simply would not work without DiCaprio. He has the charm and the looks to make people believe in what he says. There is a tricky balancing act of confidence and arrogance that DiCaprio beautifully straddles that makes you want to root for him. It is similar in a way to what people felt for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Wish fulfillment is no doubt a key component in making you like these characters. You know what they are doing is wrong, but their actions are not too heinous and they seem to be having so much fun doing them.
Frank has the bright idea to become a pilot and fly all over the world without paying a cent. He never flew a plane, but merely hitched a ride. At this time he passed fraudulent checks to pay for his jet setting lifestyle. This caught the eye of Carl who spent a few years chasing Frank and trying to bring him in. Hanks does well in expressing the exasperation that Carl felt in seemingly always being a step behind. I did have some issues with Hanks attempting a Boston accent. It just doesn’t work and Hanks would have been wise to not even try it.
Frank eventually tried his hand at being a doctor and lawyer. Along the way he fell in love with Brenda Strong, a nurse played by Amy Adams. This was before Adams broke through with her performance in Junebug. The talent is certainly shown here in this minor role. Adams adroitly captures Brenda’s innocence and her aggressive side as well. Frank is getting tired of running and wants to settle down. Brenda’s family is somewhat dysfunctional, but Frank feels like he belongs with them. These scenes circle back to Frank’s trauma with his parents divorce and how that affected him. Frank needs to fit in. This leads to Frank almost being captured and Brenda betraying him. Frank must have known at this time that he was about to be caught.
The schemes that Frank did back in the day couldn’t be done today with the heightened security and more security checks. It was indeed a simpler time back then. A present day Frank would probably have to be computer whiz. I don’t think it would be as much fun as pictured here. The world unfortunately has become a more dangerous place.
Spielberg wisely let his actors breathe in telling this fascinating story. He doesn’t go overboard with fancy camera shots or special effects that dominate many of his works. One of my favorite scenes was the opening title sequence. It fondly recalls the work that Saul Bass did for Alfred Hitchcock in such classic films like NORTH BY NORTHWEST, VERTIGO and PSYCHO. I also quite enjoyed the score by John Williams. It is not overpowering or intrusive. There is a fun playful tone that fits the era and the story being told.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN will never be mentioned in the same breath as SCHINDLER’S LIST or E.T., but that doesn’t stop it from being thoroughly entertaining.
Video: The color is sumptuous and vibrant. That was so important in a period piece like this.
Audio: The score of John Williams picks its spots to make its mark. I could easily pick out the various instruments chosen by Williams including the ever present saxophone.
Catch Me If You Can: Behind the Camera (17:09): Spielberg and other contributors discussing the making of the film. This includes the costumes, sets and designs. Spielberg states it was one of his fastest shoots (around 52 days).
Cast Me If You Can: Spielberg and Producer Walter Parkes are front and center on the major casting choices.
Leonardo DiCaprio (6:07): DiCaprio was already attached to the film before Spielberg got involved. The director basically says that Leo recruited him than the other way around.
Tom Hanks (6:19): Hanks was first discussed for the father role. Hanks though was more drawn to the FBI agent.
Christopher Walken/Nathalie Baye (7:22): Parkes was the one who first suggested Walken. He wasn’t on Spielberg’s radar. Spielberg wanted an authentic French actress to play Frank’s mother since that was what she was in real life. Fellow director Brian DePalma helped in this regard and arranged a screen test with Baye.
Martin Sheen/Amy Adams (6:30): Sheen was working on West Wing at that time. John Wells assisted with his schedule to make him available. All involved knew that Adams was right for the role.
Jennifer Garner (3:15): She was another person working on a television show at the time. Spielberg was impressed with the various characters she had to play on Alias.
Scoring: Catch Me If You Can (5:25): Composer John Williams goes over the choices he made for this film. Spielberg also chimes in on the top 40 hits used.
Frank Abagnale: Between Reality and Fiction: The genuine article discusses various parts of his life and what drew Spielberg, Hanks and DiCaprio to the man.
Meet Frank Abagnale (5:28): Introduction of the man.
Frank Becomes a Pilot (4:07): Frank goes over the process on how he became a pilot and what that involved.
Frank’s Careers (1:58): These included being a pilot, lawyer, doctor and professor.
Frank Gets Caught and Turns His Life Around (3:35): Frank discusses his life after being caught.
The FBI Perspective (7:07): Former FBI agent was a consultant on the film and helped Spielberg makes things as authentic as possible.
Catch Me If You Can In Closing (4:59): Recap on what made this a compelling story to get all these talented people involved in it.
Photo Galleries: Included in this are behind the scenes shots, costume galleries and cast shots.