In today’s franchise-filled film industry, directors aren’t usually paid to show who they are. Decades come and go, and the results come out as films so generic they feel like they were factory made on a production line. Sure, we’re talking franchises here, but self-ownership should always be a thing when it comes to making your mark in movie history. There are exceptions, of course, and they are always movies that give the audience something to talk about.
Steven Spielberg is one of those directors whose identity has emerged throughout his career. Even when he “got the franchise,” he made sure to respect his boundaries and fight for his ideas (take eg The Lost World: Jurassic Park. It feels very Spielberg even if the movie seems out of control in the end). You know when you watch a Spielberg movie because its audiovisual language is unique and has one goal: to amaze you in a good way and let you live in a fantasy world for a few hours.
When Spielberg “gets down” and makes more realistic movies, that ability isn’t sacrificed for the sake of realism. He will still use the image in front of you as a gateway into his world where amazing things can happen, but also where reality is at its height. He would never filter it out to be friendly. And he will find a way to connect you with stories that can only be compelling in the hands of a master storyteller. This is the case in 2002 Catch me if you can.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio in one of his best executed roles, the film tells the story of Frank Abagnale Jr., a man who claims he has defrauded everyone, stealing millions of dollars before his 19th birthday. Spielberg directs a historical crime film that shifts between drama and comedy without sacrificing a single second of footage to comply with the rules of crime movies. Without being similar to every other heist or crime movie, Catch me if you can It ended up being one of the most exciting films of Spielberg’s career and one of the most creative films of the 2000s.
The seriousness of the crime through Spielberg’s camera
in Catch me if you can, Abagnale’s story is told from the moment he is a teenager suffering from the inevitable separation of his parents. It can be seen that Abagnale began his life of crime as a kind of rebellious answer to the issues he was struggling with at home. Spielberg still never used judgment when developing the character. His crimes become more severe as he continues his journey, but just as we become more enchanted by his creativity. All we keep asking is how did he convince everyone when he was just a teenage boy?
Abagnale became a commercial pilot, lawyer, doctor, and husband. All this without studying a single sentence. But he does not stop being a son. The relationship with his father (brilliantly played by Christopher Walken) is complicated, and almost makes you wonder why the old man didn’t stop him from being a criminal. In a pivotal scene, the Abagnale men meet in a restaurant and the father is simply amazed at what he taught his son to be. Only his parents’ divorce can make him break away from the dreamland of make up he created. The only goal of Frank Abagnale Jr. is not to accept any kind of failure, like the one his parents accepted naturally.
But to accept that he is a criminal? Therefore, Abagnale’s journey must include a state of self-awareness. Spielberg decides otherwise and gives much more weight to the counterpart who will somehow get Abagnale to face justice.
A wonderful fantasy play about morality and justice
Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) is the agent who specializes in fraud stalking the teen, or at least he’s trying to. When the time comes for Abagnale to confront the gravity of his crimes, Hanratty also represents his only chance at redemption. Hanratty maintains that justice will come in any form possible, and Abagnale’s only option is to surrender and face the danger of the fake lifestyle he has put together. Spielberg’s evolution of the morality paradigm is only possible because Hanratty and Abagnale form more of a “father and son” relationship than “law enforcement agent and criminal.” Abagnale’s isolation from the world seems to be his only destination.
At this point, the audience was beginning to wonder how true that was. His crimes included: impersonating a Pan Am pilot, forging Pan Am paychecks, impersonating an ER doctor, attending to patients, and cashing countless checks at hotels. Surely, a man whose actions allowed him to steal millions must be punished.
But that’s the great thing about Spielberg’s movie: it never goes for reality because it doesn’t need the crime to be true to make an interesting movie. Is it based on a true story? Is that really important? Perhaps this is Spielberg’s way of confusing us and making us stare at a smokescreen. As Abagnale’s father tells him as they toast to the greatest gift he’s ever received, understanding his son is deceiving the world: “The rest of us are really idiots.”
It is one of Spielberg’s best films
Catch me if you can It is one of Spielberg’s best films of the modern part of his career. Janusz Kamiński’s cinematography is fantastic and makes you feel like you’re part of a dream. John Williams’ score is one of the more eccentric points of his career as he adopts jazz styles to make the film fun and harmless. And again, you feel like you’re in Spielberg’s world. As safe as this sounds, the film’s most emotional moment doesn’t come when Abagnale faces justice. It’s when his dream is shattered as he stares back at the family he was meant to have.
Without a single moment of assessment, Spielberg portrays Abagnale’s brief endeavor as a choice he can’t escape. Naturally, I (supposedly) ended up working for Hanratty in the fraud unit. He’s found his place in life the hard way, as a convicted felon whose crimes will never be measured because no one can really know how much he’s done. Yes, we would also be ashamed to reveal how much a boy can steal from us if we were decent company.
you can stream Catch me if you can on max.