Monday, August 1, 2011

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

DiCaprio Finally Learns How To Act
In One Of Spielberg's Bests

- Steven Spielberg is a director with a long list of great films under his belt, and if you ask me, Catch Me If You Can (2002) surely ranks high among them. A unique addition to Spielberg's family of film work, Catch Me If You Can is a hilarious, character-driven, responsive, and enlivening film based on the life of Frank Abagnale Jr. ("not Abagnahlee not Abagnaylee, but Abagnale!" - played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and his astonishing years of interesting living and government fraud. Naturally, if one is going to try and cheat the government, one is going to be pursued by the authorities. Enter FBI bank fraud agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), who chases Abaganale from sun up to sun down and sea to shining sea.

Catch Me If You Can has a look and feel unlike most other films by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg and Spielberg film veteran cinematographer Janusz Kaminski flex their creative muscles and present a well-paced and almost eccentric look that moves the film along wonderfully and is a feast for the film senses. Adding to the unique Spielberg atmosphere in Catch Me If You Can is longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams, who composes one of his most unique and greatest scores ever with a jazzy and zestful set of tunes that are out of his usual musical comfort zone.

I also have to mention the film's terrific opening credits sequence that, on top of featuring the film's very cool main musical theme from John Williams, has to be one of the most flat-out fun to watch credit sequences ever in the history of movies.

The cast of Catch Me If You Can are all perfect in their roles. Amy Adams, Martin Sheen, Nathalie Baye.... This film features a cast in which every role is every member performs at a high level - but the supporting stand-outs for me are an absolutely outstanding Tom Hanks as the awkward, funny, and yet a very capable FBI agent Carl Hanratty and Christopher Walken, who gives a solid Academy Award-nominated performance as Frank Abagnale Sr.

Headlining this Spielberg event is Leonardo DiCaprio, starring as Frank Abagnale Jr. Now, I did not jump on the DiCaprio bandwagon as early as others seemed to: whether it was his flat teenie-bopper hero in Titanic (1997), going
"full retard" in What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), or flat-out being miscast as Eurotrash in Gangs Of New York (2002) and Man In The Iron Mask (1998) - I never found DiCaprio impressive until Catch Me If You Can in 2002. Finally, after many years of working in Hollywood, DiCaprio gives a fantastic performance! If DiCaprio could not convince as Frank Abagnale, the film as a whole would have crumbled because of how much it focuses on him - but DiCaprio excels with a very confident and strong portrayal that was unseen at the time and made the film work. How did this happen? Was it working with Spielberg? Was it working with Hanks? Was it just maturity? Or maybe the planets lined up in such a way that DiCaprio's acting ability was forever unlocked.... The world may never know - but whatever it was, it is great for the audience, the film, and, of course, DiCaprio himself, as he has not given a bad performance since.

CBC Rating: 9/10

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