If Frank Abagnale, Jr. hadn't led such a startlingly cinematic life in reality, a screenwriter somewhere would have to invent it. Traumatized by his parent's divorce and on his way to being a second-generation financial foul-up, Abagnale (Leonardo DiCaprio) somehow stumbled into the life of a con man. While most kids his age were finishing up their senior year of high school, Abagnale was passing himself off as a pilot for one of the most prestigious airlines the world over, cashing bogus homebrew checks on Pan Am's dime, and flying just about anywhere he could dream up for free. He didn't just pretend he was a doctor; Abagnale wormed his way into a supervisory position at a hospital. This teenaged high school dropout convinced people who really ought to know better that he had his medical license and passed the bar, even taking a position as an assistant prosecutor down in Louisiana. Heck, Abagnale dupes the FBI agent who's been hounding him all over the country, following his endless trail of bad checks, into believing he's a Secret Service agent! See, back then in the 1960s, Abagnale's forged checks ranked him among the most successful bank robbers in this nation's history, making off with millions without even having to raise a pistol.
Still, though, Abagnale isn't a cold, calculating, exploitative monster; he's a kid who's gotten caught in the riptide of his own racket. Because Abagnale's targets are faceless corporations and monolithic banks, and since his only weapons are charm and printing know-how, it really doesn't even feel like he's hurting anyone...that this is all just multimillion dollar teenaged mischief. Even Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), the FBI agent tasked with hunting down Abagnale, can't help but feel some level of admiration. To be that inventive, that much of a craftsman, that audacious, and that young...I mean, what Abagnale did was wrong, obviously, but even in
I absolutely adore Catch Me If You Can. For one, it offers the most achingly gorgeous recreation of the 1960s this side of Mad Men. Despite the film's nearly two and a half hour runtime, the pacing is so breezy and nimble that it feels closer to half that. It's difficult to fathom any actors better suited to these parts, from supporting players like Amy Adams, Martin Sheen, Christopher Walken, Nathalie Baye, and James Brolin all the way to Catch Me If You Can's two leads. The pitch-perfect casting of DiCaprio helps to ensure that Abagnale never comes across as a bad guy. DiCaprio's inherent charms go a long way, but the performance also resonates because Abagnale isn't flawless. He's a kid who's generally making every bit of it up in the moment. He's constantly on the razor's edge of being discovered, and when Abagnale says the wrong thing or starts to get in over his head, Catch Me If You Can is breathlessly suspenseful; you want this brazen liar to get away with it! It sure does help that DiCaprio's performance deftly blends in so much vulnerability with the necessary confidence. If Abagnale were as smug and smarmy as most people in his position would likely be, Catch Me If You Can would probably be insufferable. Even though Hanks' do-right FBI agent is ultimately the antagonist of the film, the actor finds a great deal of humanity in a role that's drab and dry by design. I can't help but love the father/son dynamics in this film, from Abagnale's flesh-and-blood father (Christopher Walken) taking such pride in his son's schemes -- a sort of revenge on the banks that ravaged his life -- to Hanratty's role as a surrogate parent.
Spielberg's craftsmanship ensures that the characters don't get lost in the concept. Sure, sure, Catch Me If You Can would work in lesser hands; c'mon, it's the story of a multimillionaire chameleon being chased around the country by the FBI! The difference is that Spielberg makes sure that Abagnale and Hanratty come across as people rather than cinematic constructs, and Catch Me If You Can pulls that off without being overly schmaltzy or heavy-handed about it. As entrancing as the overall premise is, so much of the film's success comes from these subtle flourishes...these small, seemingly insignificant moments...that most filmmakers would toss aside. Its sense of humor is top-shelf as well. Catch Me If You Can captures so much of what I love about Spielberg at his best, and just because it isn't E.T., Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Schindler's List, this is a film that doesn't deserve to be left out of the conversation. Well-worth rediscovering on Blu-ray and very Highly Recommended.
Catch Me If You Can has a subtly stylized look to it. The opening moments in the crumbling French prison are startlingly sharp and drenched in a cold teal, for instance, before cutting back to the warm, nostalgic
The AVC encode for Catch Me If You Can spans both layers of this BD-50 disc. The presentation has been lightly letterboxed to preserve the film's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
Catch Me If You Can features a six-channel, 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, and there's nothing but praise to be had on that front as well. The sense of clarity is expectedly marvelous, particularly the rich and full-bodied reproduction of John Williams' jazz-infected score. The film's dialogue is consistently rendered cleanly and clearly throughout as well. Though this is very much a front-heavy film, there are some definite nice touches in the multichannel sound design just the same, such as the pans of off-screen aircraft across the rear speakers. No complaints.
Also included are Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Subtitles are offered in English (traditional and SDH), French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Catch Me If You Can doesn't ring in its tenth anniversary with any new extras, but plenty of bells and whistles from the initial special edition have all been carried over.
The cover art for this Blu-ray release is awfully bland compared to the decade-old DVD, but it's nothing I can't live with.
The Final Word
Benefitting immensely from its pitch-perfect cast, endlessly clever script, and infectiously fun premise, Catch Me If You Can may be the single most underrated film in Steven Spielberg's œuvre. This is a movie that's well-worth re-evaluating now that it's found its way to Blu-ray. Highly Recommended. Do you concur?