Steven Spielberg's CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Review by Dennis D. McDonald
In this film Spielberg proves he can direct “smaller” films and still be very, very entertaining. If you pay close attention, though, the massive displays of antique autos, the meticulous 60’s costumes and hair, and the numerous subtle CGI effects are anything but small. This is a very well crafted film and the images on the screen show it.
The story follows a brilliant teenage crook (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) as he works his way through one high-flying fraudulent scam after another, all the time writing and cashing bad checks and staying one step ahead of the FBI and its senior bank fraud investigator (played by Tom Hanks). Along the way we get flashbacks and references to the crook’s relationship with his father (superbly played by Christopher Walken) and his French mother (played by Nathalie Baye of Venus Beauty Institute fame). We also see the crook’s lavish lifestyle contrasted with the austere and focused life of his pursuer.
I liked this movie more as it progressed. At the start I feared it would be a lightweight caper film glossing over the lies and falsehoods that support the criminal escapades. But we gradually realize the loneliness and lies that underlie the crook’s life and understand also that, sooner or later, he will make a mistake.
The movie is just chock-full of superb performances, all of which could have skittered away into bathos or silliness had the story been under the control of a lesser cast and director. Instead we have performances like Walken’s who, straying from his nutso persona, gives restrained and heartfelt sincerity to his role as the father who raises his son (unsuccessfully) to accept self-deception as a way of life. Just as impressive is Tom Hanks’ performance as the straight-laced FBI agent who doggedly pursues the crook and develops a grudging respect for his skills and creativity. (Physically, Hanks reminded me of the Friday character played by Dan Aykroyd many years ago in the DRAGNET remake, but without the sense of caricaturing of Jack Webb.)
I liked the film. It’s beautifully displayed on the DVD and the soundtrack is very well done, including numerous surround effects that are effective and not gimmicky. John Williams’ score is very good, but parts are very reminiscent of some of the elements used in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. That’s not necessarily bad but I was surprised by the similarity. Finally, I loved the beginning credits to this film. It really has the look — and sound — of an animated early-1960’s film and had me wracking my brain for why it seemed so familiar; what finally popped into my mind was, “Oh yeah, this is what the credits for an Otto Preminger comedy would look like!”
Review copyright (c) 2003 by Dennis D. McDonald