CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Review by Michael Jacobson
Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Nathalie
Director: Steven Spielberg
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 141 Minutes
Release Date: May 6, 2003
I’m sorry to have to tell you…your son is forging checks!”
sure we can take care of that…just tell me how much he owes and I’ll pay you
far, it’s about $1.3 million.”
films have posed the question: just
because a person has a unique talent for something, is he or she obliged to
dedicate themselves to it? Catch
Me If You Can asks an entirely different one:
if somebody’s good at it, why NOT do it?
Steven Spielberg took a true story and crafted a terrifically entertaining movie
out of it; one that has a throwback feel to the light caper movies of the
sixties like Charade or some of Hitchcock’s more winsome offerings
(right down to the lark of John Williams’ jazzy score and the vintage looking
title sequence), but at the same time, manages to get to the heart of a very
unusual character. In it, we find
humor and fun along with loneliness and poignancy.
Abignale, Jr. (DiCaprio) was a normal teenager who ended up doing extraordinary
(and extraordinary illegal) things. When
his world is turned upside down by his father’s (Walken) sudden business
problems and his mother’s (Baye) seeking of a divorce, he runs away from home
with nothing but a modest checking account with $25 in it.
order to survive, he begins writing bad checks…something he knows he can’t
do forever…but that simple crime turns out to be the beginning of a long
running and lucrative series of cons that would end up netting him over $4
million in money and goods…as well as eventually several years of prison.
did he do it? It’s a rather
amazing tale, almost too incredible to believe.
Yet it happened. A young kid
without even a high school diploma managed to successfully pose as (and enjoy
the benefits of) an airline pilot, a doctor, a lawyer and more.
All the while, he managed to develop an increasingly intricate system of
forging and cashing bogus checks…you have to see it for yourself.
of course, for every criminal, there’s a cop, and in this case, it’s
Carl Hanratty (Hanks), a no-nonsense fraud investigator for the FBI.
He’s determined to bring young Frank to justice, but it won’t be as
easy as he thinks: the boy almost
always manages to stay one step ahead of his pursuer.
In fact, at one point, when Hanratty has him cornered, he gets
away…again, you have to see it to believe it!
life on the lam isn’t much of a life, even when you have money, clothes, cars,
and women all around. Trapped
inside false identities he carved out for himself, and unable to reconnect with
his parents, the lonely Frank actually ends up turning to Hanratty in a series
of holiday phone calls as his only real connection to another human being.
In a quietly heartbreaking sequence, Frank almost gets to marry a
wonderful girl who might have been perfect for him, but his web of deceit makes
that kind of life impossible.
was a great year for Spielberg in that he released two of the year’s best
films (much like he did in 1993 with the Oscar knockout Schindler’s List and
the box office tromping Jurassic Park).
In Minority Report, he used state of the art technology to create
a world of the future. In Catch
Me If You Can, he employed old fashioned techniques to re-create a world of
the past. The end results were both
the same: a completely realized and
believable world in which to communicate his story. But while Minority Report garnered awe for its
impeccable vision, I find myself even more amazed by what Spielberg achieved
with Catch Me…an honest, well-paced, perfect piece of entertainment
crafted in just over 50 days of shooting. 50
days! Most directors would have
taken three times as long to make this story with end results only half as
good…to me, that sums of the magic of Spielberg.
if it was a good year for Spielberg, it was arguably an even better year for his
star Leonardo DiCaprio, who enjoyed a bit of a career renaissance with two
terrific performances for two of our greatest living filmmakers.
But while his work in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York earned
proper attention, he really reclaimed his notoriety as one of our country’s
best young actors in Catch Me If You Can.
I’ve seen just about every film Leo has been in, and truthfully, I
think this picture is his finest work to date.
more actors merit distinct mention: the
always affable Tom Hanks, who returns to work with Spielberg in a very different
follow-up to Saving Private Ryan, and Christopher Walken, who earned an
Oscar nomination for his work in a small but potent performance that’s potent
Catch Me If You Can is, in one brief description, simply excellent storytelling crafted by one of cinema’s premier storytellers. Steven Spielberg makes it look effortless.
TRIVIA: Keep an eye out for Jennifer Garner
in a small but memorable role.
disc represents a solid rendering of Spielberg’s vision and Janusz
Kaminski’s cinematography, both of which inject the film with the look and
feel of the 60s, which is both the time frame of the film and the cinematic
style being recreated. A lot of the
images seem deliberately softened a tad for a warmer, more nostalgic feel.
It’s a stylistic device that works.
Grain is very minimal, and the images are free from bleeding, distortion
or other artifacts of compression, while colors are warm and reminiscent of
decades gone by. Nicely done.
a choice of Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, this disc offers a better than
average listening experience, considering most of the film is dialogue and
situation oriented. The biggest
benefactor is John Williams’ score, which is fun and lively, and a bit of a
departure from his usual dramatic music. Jazz
standards are sprinkled in for extra good measure. Spoken words are clean and clear, and the dynamic range is
formidable. The surround channels
and subwoofer add depth and ambience to livelier scenes, such as a party in
Atlanta or traffic at the airport. High
second disc holds all of the extras, starting with a “Behind the Camera”
look at the making of the movie. Steven
Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Janusz Kaminski and others, including
the real Frank Abignale, Jr., share their thoughts on the story, the
development, and the fast paced production.
Set and costume designers discuss the authentication of the look of the
period as well.
four part featurette with Abignale is extremely interesting, as he recalls both
his years on the run and the years since going legitimate with his life and
career. Other featurettes document
the casting, John Williams’ music, and even the FBI’s perspective on the
story. An enjoyable package all
around without a lot of fluffy filler.