Catch Me If You Can (2002)

(In theaters, December 2002) Everyone loves to see a deserving hero get away with something, and that’s exactly what this Spielberg film delivers. This is the loose biography of con man Frank Abagnale, who spent the late sixties impersonating airline pilots, doctors and lawyers and forging checks to great profit. Constantly outwitting authorities, he was eventually captured… but still managed to beat the system. This delightful film announces its colors from the onset, through a deliberately retro credit sequence that plunges us back in the time period. Leonardo DeCaprio is convincing in the variety of roles Abagnale chooses to play, and the direction is comfortably laid-back. This film could have been done at any time over the past twenty years; there is nary a “modern” technique in sight. A cursory glance at interviews with Abagnale is sufficient to uncover significant deviations from reality (there was, for instance no single FBI agent pursuing Abagnale through all these years), but the fiction is a compelling, entertaining piece of entertainment. Spielberg is a consummate professional, and he knows how to create a feel-good piece of cinema. Even the too-long ending is built to show how one could see Abagnale simultaneously becoming a law-abiding citizen while beating the system even more outrageously than as a criminal. Catch Me If You Can isn’t a particularly deep or challenging film, but it’s a lot of fun. A terrific criminal procedural enhanced by a compelling cat-and-mouse story, it’s pretty much designed for maximum entertainment. Enjoy!

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