Catch Me If You Can (2002) is a crime-drama biopic produced and directed by Steven Spielberg. The film follows the exploits of real-life conman Frank Abagnale, Jr., who conned millions of dollars by posing as a pilot, a lawyer, and a doctor...all before his nineteenth birthday. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale and Tom Hanks as Carl Hanratty, an FBI agent chasing after him, as well as an abundant supporting cast. Born in 1948, Abagnale ran away from home at the age of sixteen and decided he wanted to impersonate a Pan Am pilot. He stole almost three million dollars and traveled to over twenty-six countries. Later on he worked as a pediatrician at a Georgia hospital as well as a Louisiana state attorney. Eventually, the FBI managed to catch him and he was sent to serve twelve years in prison in the United States. However, Abagnale was so skilled in check fraud that he was released after five years to began helping the FBI track down check forgers. Today he is a consultant for the FBI and has written books on how to avoid bank fraud.
Catch Me If You Can is made to feel like a game of cat-and-mouse, and director/producer Steven Spielberg executes that brilliantly. The audience can feel both the growing apprehension of Abagnale as the FBI follow his trail as well as the urgency of the FBI trying to catch him. However it doesn't feel like your regular crime or chase movie where it's dark, suspenseful, and edgy. Instead, Catch has a very lighthearted, entertaining feel to it. The film is set in the mid-to-late 1960's, and embraces all of the costumes, color, music, and bedazzlement that made that era so memorable. The color saturation is high, the soundtrack delightful, and the characters comedic and raw simultaneously. It is super, super fun to watch teenager Frank Abagnale posing in the adult world, having to learn everything as he goes but fooling everyone into believing his disguise. It is also fun to watch Carl Hanratty and the other FBI agents track him down.
Abagnale is a fascinating character, and DiCaprio does a wonderful job playing him. His social skills are incredible and he is a fast learner, so much so that one often forgets that Abagnale was just a teen. Even though he is a criminal you cannot help but cheer him on and anticipate what he'll do next. Carl Hanratty and the FBI, meanwhile, are everything Abagnale is not and visa-versa.
Even though Catch has lots of fun, delightful moments there are also some serious moments as well, especially towards the end after Abagnale is caught and arrested. One element of the film I loved the most is it shows every Christmas Day from when Abagnale is living with his parents to when he is taken back to the US. It helps the audience follow how much time is passing as well as show how much the characters have changed since the previous Christmas. It also gives the film a bit of a Christmas-y feel, so it's not a bad choice to watch around the holidays. The theme of divorce also adds to the more serious moments, since in the film it is shown that the divorce of Abagnale's parents was what prompted him to run away.
Catch Me If You Can is a great movie for anyone who loves a child prodigy protagonist, the 1960's, crime-drama, and a movie that keeps you entertained and on the edge of your seat the whole time. All the characters are portrayed very well and pull you right into the story. It's the kind of movie that makes you laugh but also makes you feel smarter. If you watch it I can guarantee you will have a romping good time!
(Note: if you watch the film and want to know more about Frank Abagnale, I would highly recommend his autobiography of the same name. The film is generally true to his story although there are a couple inconsistencies that the book points out. Also, the book features a lot more stories about Abagnale's exploits that the film couldn't cover. There is also a musical adaptation of the movie, but I have not seen it yet.)
The Good: fun, lighthearted, entertaining film - embraces the 1960's era - all actors carry great performances - emotional depth - brilliant in showing the adventures of a conman and check forger
The Bad: a few minor inconsistencies to the true story
Warnings: some thematic elements including divorce and its lasting effects - some infrequent but occasionally strong language - doesn't explicitly show but implies some sexual content