Sunday, December 21, 2014

Catch Me If You Can

Based on the book by Frank Abagnale and Stan Redding, Catch Me If You Can is the story about a young Abagnale who manages to concoct several successful cons before the age of 19 as he’s often in pursuit by a FBI agent. Directed by Steven Spielberg and screenplay by Jeff Nathanson, the film is a quirky comedy of sorts where a young man forges checks to create elaborate cons as he deals with being pursued by a FBI agent who refuses to give up as Leonardo diCaprio plays Frank Abagnale and Tom Hanks in the role of FBI agent Carl Hanratty. Also starring Nathalie Baye, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner, James Brolin, and Christopher Walken. Catch Me If You Can is a witty yet adventurous film from Steven Spielberg.

The film revolves around the life of a young man who decides to forge checks in order to con banks out of their money as his actions get the attention of a FBI agent who would chase him for several years. It’s a film that plays into two men involved in this cat-and-mouse game where there is a bit of mutual respect between the two even though Frank Abagnale is a criminal and Carl Hanratty is a FBI agent. Though Hanratty’s motivations is to capture Abagnale and retrieve all of the money that was stolen, it is Abagnale’s motivation that is clearly far more interesting. Especially as he is doing these schemes on banks as an act of revenge when his father Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken) was turned down by banks for a loan due to various things involving the IRS. By pretending to be a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer, Abagnale does whatever it takes to survive but things eventually get out of control which forces Abagnale to get more desperate in order to evade the FBI.

Jeff Nathanson’s screenplay does have a unique narrative as it’s told in a reflective style where Abagnale is returning to the U.S. from France as he’s accompanied by Hanratty. While the film does have a traditional structure, it is more about Abagnale’s motivations as he once lived a good life with his parents until money issues and his French mother Paula (Nathalie Baye) having an affair with a friend of his father in Jack Barnes (James Brolin) which lead to the end of the life that Abagnale had. The divorce of his parents would lead Abagnale to run away and use his mastery to con people would provide him as a means of survival where he would live well and woo women. All of this gets the attention of authorities where Carl Hanratty would be the one chasing him throughout the years as it’s all set during the 1960s while the scenes of Abagnale and Hanratty coming home to the U.S. is set in the 1970s.

While the presentation of the story is comical as the chases does have Hanratty in a series of humiliating moments. It is still a drama at heart where there’s these conversations from a pay phone that Abagnale would have with Hanratty on Christmas Day where it is about these two men getting to know each other as an act of respect between two opponents. Even as Abagnale would have thoughts of giving up his criminal schemes where an encounter with a young pregnant nurse named Brenda (Amy Adams) would raise those thoughts. While it’s third act plays more into what Abagnale would endure as a captured criminal and what he would have to do to avoid spending more time in prison where the roles of Abagnale and Hanratty would sort of change in terms of who gets humiliated. Still, it is about a sense of one-upmanship as well as how Abagnale would use his skills into this new life and find some fulfillment in his life.

Steven Spielberg’s direction is very stylish as it plays up this vibrant world of the 1960s as well as creating something that feels upbeat and lively. Especially in the way he definitely mimics films of those time while creating something that feels intimate with the compositions he creates. Some that intimacy with its use of close-ups and medium shots play into the life that the young Abagnale had with his family including the scenes between Abagnale and his father which expresses Abagnale’s desire and loyalty to his father. It’s among these smaller moments that Spielberg creates that is quite magical while having airs of sentimentality since it showcases Abagnale’s willingness to make his father proud. The direction also has Spielberg use some unique compositions to play into the phone conversations between Abagnale and Hanratty where Spielberg uses a few wide shots to play into the loneliness that looms in Hanratty as he is never seen not working.

The scenes where Spielberg plays into the chase scenes have these intricate steadicam shots play into the frenzy of Hanratty’s desperation to capture Abagnale. Even as Spielberg infuses some style with some tracking shots as well as scenes that play into some of the chases along with an extravagant scene where Abagnale hires women to pretend to be stewardesses. There is a sense of extravagance in these moments but it plays to how elaborate Abagnale’s schemes are as things do slow down in the third act. Yet, Spielberg does manage infuse some style in his compositions as well as in creating the conflicts in Abagnale in what he has to do in the third act. Overall, Spielberg creates a very compelling yet whimsical film about a cat-and-mouse game between a FBI agent and a young con artist.

Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski does brilliant work with the film‘s photography with its array of stylish approach to interior lightings for the scenes set in the bars and restaurants as well as some of its nighttime exteriors in the U.S. and parts of France. Editor Michael Kahn does fantastic work with the editing with its rhythmic approach to humor that includes the chase scenes along with some straightforward cuts to play into the drama. Production designer Jeannine Oppewall, with art director Sarah Knowles and set decorators Claudette Didul and Leslie A. Pope, does amazing work with the set design from the look of the hotel rooms and places that Abagnale stayed in to the FBI office building where Hanratty is at in his job.

Costume designer Mary Zophres does excellent work with the design of the Pan Am pilot uniforms and stewardess costumes as well as some of the clothes Abagnale wears to play into the sunny world of the 1960s. Visual effects supervisors Nathan McGuinness and Patrice Mugnier do nice work with some of the minimal visual effects which plays more as set-dressing in some sequences in the film. Sound editors Charles L. Campbell and John A. Larsen do terrific work with the sound to play into some of the machines that Abagnale would use later in his cons as well as the planes and location scenes to play into the world that the characters are in. The film’s music by John Williams is incredible as it is this nice mix of jazz textures and lush orchestral music to play into the humor and drama as the soundtrack features music from Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Dusty Springfield, and the trio of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Stan Getz, and Joao Gilberto.

The casting by Debra Zane is phenomenal as it features some notable small roles from Elizabeth Banks and Ellen Pompeo as women that Abagnale would woo in his adventures, Brian Howe, Chris Ellis, and Frank John Hughes as a trio of FBI agents who work with Hanratty as they’re often seen as bumbling fools, the real Frank Abagnale as a French policeman who would arrest Abagnale in France, Jennifer Garner as a call girl Abagnale would woo during one of his schemes, and Nancy Lenehan as Brenda’s mother who definitely takes a liking to Frank as she is excited that Brenda found a good man. James Brolin is terrific as Jack Barnes as a man who was a friend of Abagnale’s father who would betray him by sleeping with Abagnale’s mother and later marry her. Martin Sheen is excellent as Brenda’s father Roger Strong who is a bit suspicious of Abagnale yet takes him under his wing when Abagnale thinks about becoming a lawyer.

Amy Adams is fantastic as Brenda Strong as this young nurse who falls for Frank as she comes to him thinking he’s a doctor about having an abortion as the two fall in love where Adams exudes a sense of innocence to her role. Nathalie Baye is superb as Abagnale’s French mother who met Abagnale’s father when she was 18 and would marry him as she is really an interesting character as a woman that wanted a different life as she has no clue into how bad she hurt her son. Christopher Walken is brilliant as Frank Abagnale Sr. as the man that the young Frank idolizes as Walken has this sense of charm and warmth into his role as a man who wants to do what is best for his family while he would learn exactly what his son has been doing.

Tom Hanks is amazing as Carl Hanratty as the FBI agent who would be chasing Abagnale for several years as he tries to figure out how he does his schemes and such where there’s a bit of admiration in the character as well as some humor as Hanks manages to create a character that is fun to watch despite some shaky moments in his New English accent. Finally, there’s Leonardo diCaprio in a remarkable performance as Frank Abagnale as this young man who would start his cons at the age of 16 in an act of rebellion against the banks that cheated his father as diCaprio brings a lot of charm and wit to his role as well an energy and anguish into someone that wants to make his father proud as it’s one of diCaprio’s finest performances.

Catch Me If You Can is a sensational and fun film from Steven Spielberg. Armed with a great cast led by Leonardo diCaprio and Tom Hanks as well as very exciting premise that is told with such style. The film is definitely one of Spielberg’s most entertaining films as well as one of his funniest. In the end, Catch Me If You Can is a marvelous film from Steven Spielberg.

Steven Spielberg Films: (Duel (1971 film)) - (The Sugarland Express) - (Jaws) - (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) - (1941) - (Raiders of the Lost Ark) - (E.T. the Extraterrestrial) - (Twilight Zone: the Movie-Kick the Can) - (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) - (The Color Purple) - (Empire of the Sun) - (Always) - (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) - (Hook) - (Jurassic Park) - Schindler’s List - (The Lost World: Jurassic Park) - (Amistad) - Saving Private Ryan - (A.I. Artificial Intelligence) - (Minority Report) - (The Terminal) - (War of the Worlds (2005 film)) - (Munich) - (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) - (The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn) - (War Horse) - (Lincoln) - (Bridge of Spies) - (The BFG)

© thevoid99 2014


Anonymous said...

This film has settled better on me as time as separated from my initial viewing. Like, it's one of those films you kind of brush off as 'decent' and then, the more you think about it...the more you really like it. Great write up!

thevoid99 said...

I really think it's one of Spielberg's more underrated films. I thought it was a pretty good film when it first came out but repeated viewings made me enjoy it even more. It's one of my dad's favorite films.

ruth said...

I really enjoyed this one, it's a lot of fun but also has some poignant moments. Hanks and DiCaprio are great, and I like the supporting cast too, esp. Walken in a rather understated role.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-I love Christopher Walken in this film as I think it's one of his best roles as he doesn't need to be the fun, crazy guy but rather a good man. I enjoy this film as I'm waiting for it to come back on TV. I just have fun watching it.

ruth said...

Yeah, Walken seems to be typecast as the quirky, zany villain, but he's actually great as a normal guy, too. I like him in A Late Quartet too in yet another understated-yet-compelling role.