Catch Me If You Can

Catch Me If You Can ★★★★½

It is easy to admire a chameleon, first off, the little scaly critters are adorable, but when you factor in their ability to blend into any environment, see things from all angles, and always be one step ahead of their prey, you realize you have quite the predator on your hands. However, most chameleons are currently threatened with extinction, for all their gifts, they are slow moving, very cautious, and not able to thrive in most places on Earth. Catch Me If You Can is the story of a human chameleon, Frank Abagnale Jr., who flees from home when faced with the divorce of his parents, only to end up a highly successful con-man, who lives life in other people's lives. Though for all his money, Frank is still constantly on the run, both from a relentless federal agent, and from the shadows of his past.

Catch Me is a Spielberg movie through-and-through, as the director once again manages to tell a vibrant and energetic adventure tale laced with real human drama. It would be easy to take the film at face value, and just enjoy it as a globetrotting caper picture, with a charming rogue in young Frank and a stony foil in FBI agent Carl Hanratty. There is certainly plenty of fun and and zeal to go around, as Frank learns his trade on the fly (quite literally at times), taking up the roles of pilot, doctor, or lawyer along with playboy, lover, and fiancé. Like our lizardy friend I spoke about above, it is easy to envy Frank in both his wealth and freedom.

Spielberg doesn't let us off that easy however. While Frank is never an outright villain, he isn't exactly a good person either. He robs from people without thought, and not just money, he worms his way into people's orbits and then leaves them, often without considering the pain he causes. Spielberg depicts Frank as a man who is only happy when he is busy, when he has to take a second to stop, he begins mourning the loss of his family, an event he never quite reconciles himself with. In a way, his only real friend is Carl, the very man seeking to imprison him. Things aren't much better for Carl though, a career lawman, estranged from his only family, he throws himself into his job with an unflinching sense of duty and justice, only to end up spending Christmas Eve at work, alone, except for Frank's voice over a phone. The dramatic moments mesh well with the lighthearted comedy beats, and all coalesce to form a very complete vision of a extraordinary life.

The movie isn't perfect however, like most biopics, Spielberg opts to use a partial non-linear narrative structure, which works as the story progresses, flashing back and forth between present day and the past, but starts out jarring as we open with a pointless game show scene and then delve into flashback after flashback, leaving the viewer very disoriented. John Williams' score is light and catchy, but often doesn't blend quite right with the mood of the film, and the opening credits sequence, while impressive, drags on too long and reveals a bit too much of the plot.

These are all little nitpicks however, Spielberg has crafted a great film with Catch Me If You Can, effortlessly splicing humor and heart to send the audience on an emotional rollercoaster ride filled with thrills and chills. Lead by stellar performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, the star studded cast all earn their pay (though Jennifer Garner once again falls victim to the question, “why is she even here?”), Spielberg's direction is a assured and the writing is tight. If the real Frank Abagnale Jr. was anywhere near as charming as DiCaprio's, it is easy to see how he won people over, as this film quite easily charmed me, though a colorful, long-tongued lizard is still a million times cuter, no contest.

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