Apart from highlighting the fact that this film is merely inspired by a true story, one certainly acknowledges the fact that the true story itself must be exciting enough from watching this film. Although the dramatic aspect is certainly and obviously enhanced and modified, one cannot help but have an admiration for the main character of Frank Abagnale Jr, who really conned millions of dollars and was so good that from criminal he became a collaborator of the FBI.
From a technical perspective, this film is fun and very nicely done; the relief is that the notorious Spielberg style of movies like Close Encounters and Saving Private Ryan (that along with Raiders of the Lost Ark are my favourite Spielberg movies) does not get in the way of the film, and this is really because he is the one that chooses not to get in the story’s way. There is not fancy special effects, it’s quite simple, although it still is able to create a brilliant and precious atmosphere, although the start is much too complex and the film eventually places itself in the situation where Spielberg himself did not know how to end it, having built up Abagnale as an infallible con artist and Tom Hanks as too much of a loser for the audience to ever believe that he could ever be caught. In fact, the bit where we suddenly learn he has left the United States is too sudden, and does feel as if there is no transition, but regardless of that, the film still manages to feel too long (I believe that the fault of that lies withing the start of the film, as it takes much too long to get started, although I don’t include the opening credits as part of that fault, because they are a gem, a real treat and possibly the best opening credits sequence since The Pink Panther movies).
The acting is sublime. There is reason to believe that with Frank Abagnale Jr, Leonardo di Caprio cashes in the best performance of his whole career. The thing about Leonardo di Caprio is that he is an extremely talented superstars, but his baby boy good looks often makes him look miscast even in the parts where he does an excellent job. But in Catch me If You Can the casting is spot on, Leonardo di Caprio IS Frank Abagnale Jr, it’s an interpretation worthy of praise, and that itself elevates the quality of the movie. The casting is also spot on with Tom Hanks, who equally always fills in the part of the Donald Duck character of Carl Hanratty more confidently than anything else. Christopher Walken also shines as Frank Abagnale sr.
The atmospheres of the film are very important. The film is able to shift from the skoky setting of a police station to the glamorous setting of a five star expansive hotel, from the thoughtlessness of a holiday resort to the grittiness of a prison in France. The pacing is very well measured for most of the film (I already mentioned the problems I believed it has in the beginning and in the ending). But as usual, what adds gripping drama to this Spielberg film is the underlying domestic theme, once again involving a divorce and the effect the separation of parents has on a son. The character of Frank Abagnale jr. longs for the happiness of a family, the same he thought he had before his father started hitting rock bottom. But more than that, the theme of fatherhood is very strong. There comes a sad day in the life of every son when he realises that the father is just another average joe. Frank Abagnale jr. refuses to see that day, and would rather help his father get back on his feet, help him shake the dust off his shoulder and pretend like nothing happened than see him miserable and losing all his sources of happiness. At the same time, a part of him seems to have come to terms with that sad realisation, and feels disgusted with himself, and an unbearable sense of guilt for his own helplessness at changing the dereliction of his father’s life. This leads him in the constant search of another father figure, like with Martin Sheen’s character, but most importantly, with Hanratty, who at the same time, has family problems himself and needs someone whom he can consider a son. Knowing the difficult domestic background of the characters helps us sympathise and understand them and their goals better, which involves us more, and in turn, helps the film flow easily and seem fun and entertaining.
WATCH FOR THE MOMENT – The first phonecall between Hanratty and Abagnale jr. Very touching moment when Abagnale and Hanratty share their lonliness.