Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a professional liar.

Surprisingly, he doesn't actually seem that good at it, but what makes him a pro is his dizzyingly high rate of success.

At a young age he passes himself off at his new school as a supply-teacher for much of the week. Heck, at a young age he also passes himself off as an aircraft pilot. And a lawyer. And a doctor. (he manages to hide before vomiting)

By figuring-out how the various industries' internal systems operate, he remains hidden in his various guises for a good few years, teenage years that is. However the FBI's Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) is on his tail, and what develops is a huge cat-and-mouse game that spans much of the northern hemisphere. The sequence at Miami Airport - when Frank hires someone to pose as himself dressed-up in disguise - is a good indicator of the level of second-guessing and misdirection going on here.

But the film's not just about who can out-clever who. The long-distance friendship that develops between Abagnale and Hanratty becomes quite a deep one. It's not that silly old wives' tale about love and hate being similar, it's the prolonged authenticity with which both parties perceive each other.

Carl has to study his quarry intently to figure out just what actually is true about Frank. Frank has to psyche-out Carl in order to stay as many steps as possible ahead of him.

Each year they chat on the phone on Christmas Eve. Over time, Carl accidentally becomes Frank's only long-term acquaintance.

For me, this is best summed-up by Carl's shouted words to Frank when he eventually does get to arrest him. Frank's being driven away in the back of a French police car, and Carl yells through the back window at him "Don't worry Frank – I’ll have you extradited back to the United States! Don't worry!" You know he's going to do the best he can for the kid, without compromising his own moral convictions.

The thing is, they have both come to need each other. They have both lost their families, Carl his child, and Frank his parents. When Carl becomes Frank's apparent only visitor in prison, they quickly find themselves discussing what they both have in common – a keen interest in fraud.

Catch Me If You Can is a fascinating, fun adventure, about likable characters, and told with so much style that most of it might as well have been made in the era in which it is set – the 1960s. The narrative is a little confusing, not really helped by its few non-chronological scenes, but that can't hope to weigh-down its merits.

This is a great, endearing film, in which I sympathised with almost everyone. Were it not for the swearing and completely unnecessary sex, Spielberg would have struck family-viewing gold yet again.

Available here.
Review of the book here.

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