Catch Me If You Can
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The plot in a nutshell
Based on a true story, this Spielberg film chronicles the cat and mouse game
between Frank Abagnale, Jr (Leo DiCaprio) and Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks).
a young man - a very young man - Frank decides to set out on a life of
fraud. Bouncing checks across the country and impersonating a number
of professions, including a doctor, lawyer and airline pilot, he cons his
way into millions of dollars and more than one life. Carl is the FBI
man after him, early in the days of checks and therefore early in the days
of bad checks. Frank's early escapades are treated as less than a
serious crime by many of Carl's contemporaries, but he doggedly hunts him
down, and is made a fool more than once in his pursuit.
against the backdrop of the sixties, the movie got rave reviews on its
initial theatrical run before Christmas of 2002.
Relatively Spoiler Free Thoughts
Frank and Carl have one of those twisted relationships Hollywood loves so
much. The bad guy and the good guy, reaching out to each other each in
their own way, their lives inextricably woven together.
The film's strengths lie in two
areas - the exceptional acting by Hanks and Dicaprio, who can do a lot even
when their given very little, and the style and look of the entire
movie. They've captured the feel of the sixties in every shot, from
the clothing and music to the cars and style. Still, the movie ends up
a less than satisfying experience.
Hanks does fine supporting job
with the FBI agent, a slightly befuddled man with no family and even fewer
friends. For Carl, it's all about his work, and one doesn't have to
guess why he's no longer married. If you believe this film, just about
everyone seems to be divorced in the 1960's. Frank's parents divorce
as well, and while this seems to be part of the reason for his start into
crime, that's never really quite clear. Frank is smart, that's
obvious. Frank learns from his father that there's nothing wrong with
playing the system and pulling the wool over another's eyes if you're doing
it for a good reason. And it's pretty obvious that Frank's dad, played
wonderfully by Christopher Walken, has gotten himself into some hot water
with the IRS.
But you don't have to be a
criminal to find yourself trapped in the quagmire that is income tax law,
especially if you're a small business owner. It's never explained, or
even touched upon, as to what makes Frank Jr. tick and why he really found
himself in this situation. We're led to believe that the opportunity
presented itself, and he took it. Maybe it was that simple, and maybe
there's nothing in his life preceding these events that made him more likely
to jump through the hoops necessary to impersonate an airline pilot, or
become a master check forger. It seems unlikely though, and in the
context of a well told story, I would have liked to see a greater explanation
of who Frank really was.
As it is, he's not much more
than a modernized Billy the Kid. We're fascinated by him because he's
breaking the law, but he seems so damn cool while he's doing it. He
stands out as the iconic rebel, but it's not quite clear what it is he's
rebelling against. It's not Dicaprio's fault, as he does a fine job
with what he's been given. It just seems that Spielberg is getting a
tad lazy here, giving us more shine and polish than story.
For a film with a title about
running from someone, the movie has very little motion. Frank and Carl
only collide four times over the course of four years (two of those times
they never even see each other), and one can see how Frank would get lulled
into believing he's safe. One has to wonder why he worries at all, and
if it wasn't for his regular Christmas calls to Carl, he would have been a
whole lot safer. The movie drags a bit in the middle, suffering from
second act weariness, but manages to pick up again by three quarters of the
Hanks and DiCaprio share very
little screen time during the first three quarters of the film, but when
they are together the movie is at it's best. The other stand out
performance is from Walken, and the father/son scenes between he and
Dicaprio are also extremely well written, directed and acted.
In the end, everything works
out just peachy of course, for both the good guy and the bad. From
what I've read of the real life Abagnale, that's not too far from the truth.
Rating - Rent It
This isn't a bad film - far from it really. It's an enjoyable,
entertaining little movie, with some decent performances by some excellent
actors. My negative reaction comes in most part from the exceptional
reviews the film got when it was released by every critic I know.
Maybe they see the Siamese twins of hit movies, Spielberg/Hanks, splash
across the screen and they check the brain cells in charge of critical
thinking at the door. Or perhaps the opening credits, some of the coolest
and creative in recent history, acted as a form of professional movie critic
hypnosis. Whatever the case, while the film is a fun watch, it is not
Academy Award material, or even deserving of a ten best of 2002 list.
Spoiler Laden Thoughts
I'll skip the deep plot discussion this time, as the plot isn't all that
deep. That's the problem with most Spielberg films - they are pretty
to look at, and fun to watch, but there's little beneath the surface.