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Laramie Movie Scope:
Catch Me if You Can

Clever criminal chased by clever cop

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 30, 2002 -- "Catch Me if You Can" is a fascinating based-on-fact film about a very clever con man who is chased around the world by a clever, very determined FBI agent. In the process, each man learns to respect the other in a way no one else really can. Their complex relationship is at the heart of one of the year's best films.

Leonardo DiCaprio of "Gangs of New York" stars as Frank Abagnale Jr., the youngest man ever to appear on the FBI's most wanted list. He is pursued by the dedicated agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks of "The Road to Perdition"). At a very early age, Frank learned how to expertly forge checks that are almost impossible to tell from the real thing. He impersonated airline pilots to make it easier for him to cash checks, and to get around the country. He also successfully impersonated a doctor and a lawyer, passing a bar exam with no legal education apart from two weeks of hard studying. He learned how the banking system works so he could route checks across the country through federal banks, giving him more time to cash checks before he had to move on. Carl is right behind Frank every step of the way, figuring out how Frank is forging the checks and figuring out what his next move will be.

After a while, Frank and Carl know each other pretty well. It turns out they are a lot alike. In one memorable scene, Frank calls Carl at his office on Christmas Eve, where Carl is working alone. Carl suddenly sits up and says he knows why Frank called. "You've got nobody else to call," Carl says with a smile. The irony is that Carl doesn't exactly have a lot of people he can call, either. We get to know these two pretty well and their relationship is fascinating. It becomes even more interesting as the film goes on. Some of the psychological factors which lead Frank to a life of crime are fleshed out in the film. In addition to the seriousness of the crimes committed, there is a lot of comedy too. It is remarkable how successful this brash young man was. He stole millions before his 21st birthday. The performances by Hanks and DiCaprio are outstanding. There are some good supporting actors too, including Christopher Walken of "The Affair of the Necklace," who plays Frank's father, who knows his son is a criminal, but admires him anyway. He is yet another complex character. Nathalie Baye plays Frank's mother Paula, and Martin Sheen of "O" plays Roger Strong, a lawyer who takes DiCaprio under his wing. Amy Adams of "Pumpkin" plays Brenda Strong (Roger's daughter), a woman who accepts Frank's marriage proposal.

The movie is expertly directed by Steven Spielberg, arguably the best director there is. The production values are excellent, recreating the 1960s and early 1970s with style. Production designer Jeannine Oppewall ("Pleasantville"), along with costume designer Mary Zophres ("The Man Who Wasn't There") really came up with some evocative sets and clothes for the film. DP Janusz Kaminski, who has collaborated with Spielberg on several films, does another fine job here. The look of the film is impersonal. Each of the main characters spends most of their time in hotel rooms and offices or on the run. The look of the film, with its low contrasts and subdued colors, contributes to the impersonal feel. Neither of the two main characters really settles down into a space they can call their own. They are always on the move. Even home is just a temporary stop. This is one of the best films of the year. It is all about lonlieness, desperation, determination and dedication. It rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2002 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)