Catch Me If You Can stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in a Steven Spielberg film. There was a time when DiCaprio often chose to only work with the most illustrious of film directors in Hollywood and nobody is bigger than Spielberg. This 20 year old film ages remarkably well and is commonly available on streaming platforms.
Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) worked as a doctor, a lawyer, and as a co-pilot for a major airline — all before his 18th birthday. A master of deception, he was also a brilliant forger, whose skill gave him his first real claim to fame: At the age of 17, Frank Abagnale, Jr. became the most successful bank robber in the history of the U.S. FBI Agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) makes it his prime mission to capture Frank and bring him to justice, but Frank is always one step ahead of him.
The casting for Catch Me If You Can is fantastic! Leonardo DiCaprio is as versatile as ever portraying a young Frank Abignale Jr. We get a glimpse at how easily Frank reinvents himself early in the film when he unexpectedly masquerades as the new French class teacher at his new school! Christopher Walken is perfect as Frank Abignale Sr. Frank Sr. is always a little detached from a situation and is often rambles about how the IRS is picking on him. I don’t think we ever see Frank Sr. smile after the first act of the movie which is noteworthy based on the way he played the role. Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner, oh and Tom Hanks too! And soo many more.
The writing is really good. There are some remarkably fun moments where we see some creative dialogue and witty writing to progress a scene. One really fun scene is when DiCaprio’s Frank Abignale Jr is in a room with Tom Hanks’ FBI Agent Carl Hanratty. DiCaprio was given one simple task: Escape the room without Carl realizing his identity. What ensues is a simple but notable example of the smart writing sprinkled throughout. In addition to the great dialogue there are so many good subplots that we follow. As I mentioned earlier, Christopher Walken as Frank Abignale Sr. is always a little detached and mysterious. Frank Jr. (DiCaprio) is always trying to help reunite his parents as a couple, whether is be by buying his dad an expensive car or paying for a family vacation. These subplots are brief moments throughout Catch Me If You Can but they help break up the story and add some great scenes between the principle actors.
Most of the pacing in Catch Me If you Can is really really good. We move at a nice pace while meeting the principle characters, discovering the plot and we begin Frank’s globetrotting while he’s masquerading as an airline pilot. It never seems like things are happening too fast when we’re thrust into Frank’s new world. What’s really great about this, along with the writing, is that we are introduced to the environments through Franks’ eyes. As Frank learns about check routing or how pilot uniforms are acquired, the audience is “learning” along with Frank as he guides us into this world. When Frank progresses increase the scale of his crimes we never feel overwhelmed and things seem like a natural progression in his criminal career.
The environments and cinematography are beautiful. There are so many scenes where it feels like the environments are as much of a character as the actors themselves. My favorite set is the Miami airport. As someone who’s frequented this airport I can’t help but feel fascinated at how Spielberg and his team were able to rewind time and show us a Miami Airport of the 50’s. The costuming, the environment settings, and the overall aesthetics of the film have a beautiful sheen of vintage that I LOVE.
The pacing in the last act of Catch Me If You Can is sloppy. It feels as if the Catch Me If You Can runs out of time while trying to finish telling the story. The pace changes and the story speeds along from the moment Frank decides to pursue a career in medicine. There are moments that tease us with the idea of deep diving into Frank’s illicit activities while running a hospital emergency room or practicing in a court of law but we’re not.
Story concepts are as quickly swept away as they are introduced and Catch Me If You Can becomes a frantically paced dash toward the finish line. Maybe this is an effort to reflect the psyche of Frank at this point in his life. Maybe Spielberg thought that these aspects of Frank weren’t as interested and unworthy of film. Whatever the case, this frantic pacing leads to Catch Me If You Can suffering from too many false endings.
There are some nagging story points don’t stay open by the time the credits appear on screen. Christopher Walken as Frank Sr. deserves more exploration into his awareness and complicities in his sons activities. I love that Catch Me If You Can teases Frank’s reunion with his mom. I don’t like that the sub-plot didn’t develop far enough for this moment to be a satisfying payoff. And lastly, the conclusion with Frank working alongside Carl in the FBI is downright deflating. It wasn’t bad, I just felt bad for the guy, ya know?
Catch Me If You Can is a fantastic film that ages really well. This is easily one of DiCaprio’s best movies and it’s a pleasure seeing him work along with a director like Spielberg and opposite an actor like Hanks.
- Acting - 9/109/10
- Cinematography - 8/108/10
- Plot/Screenplay - 6/106/10
- Setting/Theme - 7/107/10
- Buyability - 8/108/10
- Recyclability - 7/107/10