By Nazeefa Ahmed, February 1 2024—
Catch Me If You Can is a biopic about the infamous con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. who worked as a pilot, doctor and lawyer in addition to defrauding corporations more than 2.5 million dollars over his short criminal career in the 60s. The story follows the cat and mouse chase between Abagnale (Leonardo Di Caprio) and FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), contending with power and morality and the vast gray area in between.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, the witty and brilliant film is an early 2000s classic, one with an absurd premise and bold execution. Abagnale’s life falls apart at the age of 17 when his parents file for divorce. What was once a stable nuclear family explodes quite suddenly and each member is left to recover from the radiation alone. Abagnale’s mother, Paula, finds refuge in another man. His father, Frank Abagnale Sr., desperately clutches to his past glory. With both his parents unable to provide emotional security, Abagnale Jr. copes by building a life of his own, one that would take him to great heights — but, like Icarus, would lead to a tragic fall from grace.
The story is brought to life by the powerful chemistry between co-stars DiCaprio and Hanks. DiCaprio’s all-American charm contrasted with Hanks’ old man demeanour sets the tone and pace of the film. Through their captivating performances, the dichotomy of their characters takes a back seat, showing that underneath their facades, both Hanratty and Abagnale were truly friends, looking out for each other despite their competing goals. Hanratty represented the father figure that Abagnale truly craved, someone who made him take responsibility for his actions and then provided an opportunity to reinvent himself. Though Abagnale is a criminal, the viewer can’t help but root for him as Carl Hanratty’s traps become ever so successful and his redemption arc provides both inspiration and solace for those who have lost their way.
Abagnale wanted to have everything — the money, the prestige, the girl — but in the chase for a perfect existence, he was unable to truly enjoy the feeling of earning the life he lived. That took a toll on his fraudulent pursuits, as he became careless over time. He thought that after building a life for himself without blemishes he would finally be content. But Abagnale’s identity was as fake as the cheques he cashed — something that only looked good on paper.
Spielberg’s film has stood the test of time and remains a cornerstone of early 2000s cinema two decades later. Audiences through the years have been inspired by Abagnale’s exploration of truth and identity as well as the “fake it till you make it” attitude that leads to greater opportunities for those who are brave enough to grasp the challenge. It’s a story of how unshakable confidence can take an individual to great heights. Though our self-confidence should not be misused, Catch Me If You Can reminds us that if we doubt ourselves, then others will as well.