Whenever people talk about the historical prestige films that Steven Spielberg has made over the years, they talk about films like Schindler’s List, The Color Purple, and Lincoln. But sadly, it seems that nobody really talks about Catch Me If You Can. Even though it was nominated for two Oscars, Supporting Actor for Christopher Walken and Original Score for John Williams, and made $352 million against a budget of $52 million during its 2002 release, it still has flown under people’s radars.
Catch Me If You Can is a historical telling of the life of Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) who ran away from home when he was 16 and performed cons worth millions of dollars by posing as a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer before his 19th birthday. Repeatedly on his tail was FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) who specialized in bank fraud. The film is also a thematic demonstration of troubled childhoods and running from your past. Those are themes not too far from Spielberg’s own life because his parents divorced when he was a teenager and in an interview with IGN back in 2002, Spielberg said how he made Catch Me If You Can as a way for him to tell a story that relates to his past experiences.
It’s also a biopic done with such flare and particularly, with the use of music. For example, during a scene where the FBI is on Frank’s tail and Frank tries to fly away, the song “Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra starts playing and despite the song being upbeat, it still creates suspense. Another example is a scene that takes place on Christmastime and the song “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” by Nat King Cole starts playing. Despite the song being calm and soothing, it plays during a sad scene where Frank is on the run and is standing outside of his mother’s house, seeing her and her new family.
Steven Spielberg may be known for either the blockbuster scope or the subject matter of his pictures. But I feel like he never gets as much credit for how great he is with his actors. I mean, no actor has won an Oscar for starring in a Steven Spielberg film until Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln.
His most prolific work may be films like Titanic, The Departed, and The Wolf Of Wall Street. But Leonardo DiCaprio does some of his best work here. The film came out around the time he was trying to quickly transition from heartthrob to adult actor yet he gets to use his boyish looks as a tool for his three-dimensional performance. He’s a kid who presents himself as a mature adult with his posture and charm. But at the end of the day, he’s still a lost and scared kid.
Equally as brilliant is Tom Hanks as Carl Hanratty, an FBI agent who is in pursuit of Frank to turn him in yet as the film progresses, he showcases slight fatherly qualities. Despite having less screen time, Christopher Walken is terrific as Frank’s shady yet loving absentee father. The rest of the cast is pretty aces as well; Jennifer Garner has a solid cameo as a call girl Frank sleeps with, a pre-fame Amy Adams is devastatingly luminous as Brenda, a kind receptionist who falls for Frank’s cons, and Martin Sheen delivers as Brenda’s father, Roger.
Maybe, the film is underrated because it doesn’t depict an infamous historical period like Schindler’s List or a renowned figure like Lincoln. But regardless, Catch Me If You Can is one of Steven Spielberg’s top five films. It’s an engaging biopic done with nostalgic flare and it features tremendous acting across the board. Catch THIS one if you can!