“Catch Me if You Can” unites the talents of three of the most dominating personalities in Hollywood to create one of the most enjoyable films of the year. Starring a baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio and the untouchable Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg skillfully spins an intriguing yarn based on the true-life story of Frank William Abagnale Jr. With a story so unbelievable, it could only have come from reality. It’s hard to believe it has taken this long to put it on screen.
From the moment the opening credits roll in a vintage 1960s style, the film embraces the period with retro titles and fabulous designs. Like last year’s “Ocean’s 11,” “Catch” embraces its scenery and flash to the smallest detail.
DiCaprio plays young Frank, a 15-year-old New Yorker who loves his parents and takes after his unfortunate father. When Frank Sr.’s (Christopher Walken) business falls on hard times because of his scams and cutbacks, the family life begins to topple. His mother takes up adultery and his father begins to show him the haphazard ropes of wooing and smooth talking (usually failing dismally). One day, Frank returns home only to discover that he must decide who to live with because his parents are divorcing. Deeply scarred by the news, he escapes to a world he creates for the sake of his father.
Checkbook in hand, Frank forges checks but needs the pseudo-identity of a copilot to cash them. Right away it is abundantly clear that Junior has whatever skills of persuasion that his father severely lacks. Walken’s eerily amusing performance projects the always one-step-away paradigm to which his character is bound. Frank Jr. repeatedly asserts that if only his father asked him to stop, he would.
Having cashed over 1.5 million dollars in nearly perfect counterfeits, the FBI, led by agent Carl Hanratty (Hanks), begins to follow the trail. In a particularly amusing scene, Frank and Carl face each other but the underrated kid leaves Carl flabbergasted and made a mockery of. Once he eludes his would-be capture the first time, the cat and mouse game begins.
Taking cover in Atlanta, Frank reinvents himself as an ER doctor with flawless credentials. He meets a hapless candy-striper and flies off to become an assistant district attorney in Louisiana, all while cashing more checks and slipping through the fingertips of Hanratty and his troops. Everyone he comes into contact with becomes swept away by his charisma and falls for his act, even the apprehensive father-in-law-to-be played by Martin Sheen.
Spielberg balances the suspense, drama and comedy in superb fashion. Start to finish, the film’s exuberant flow and fun-filled plot prove an exhilarating experience. The story overflows with whimsical characters. Sheen and Walken add spunk to the story as their recognizable personae make their performances increasingly entertaining.
DiCaprio shines in his unabashedly honest and ardent role, and Hanks, as always, is at the top of his game. These two shine as their relationship fluctuates from cop-robber to father-son. Their loneliness brings a joint sense of attachment and Hanratty’s dedication to the case combined with his compassion for Frank makes him the figure that Frank wishes his father resembled.
Although it might drag, Spielberg always manages to resume the fast paced adventure that makes it so enjoyable. Down time between evasive maneuvering allows for many of the most touching and humorous moments in the film, and the fact that it’s all based on true events makes it ever more enticing as the plausibility seems to stretch beyond acceptability.
Technically flawless, smart and engrossing, “Catch Me if You Can” is definitely one of the most captivating films of the year.