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Catch Me If You Can (2002)

"Catch Me If You Can" documents the wily adventures of con artist Frank William Abagnale Jr. who became one of America's most prolific criminals after cashing millions of dollars in fraudulent checks world wide. The film document the trials and tribulations of his daredevil adventures that depict the loneliness of a seventeen year old boy running for his life while looking for a little love and money along the way.

The cast includes: Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Walken, and Tom Hanks.

Written by: Jeff Nathanson (screenplay) and Frank Abagnale Jr. (book).

Directed by: Steven Spielberg.

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Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama.

 Rated: PG-13 for some sexual content and brief language.

Tagline: "Stop chasing me…"

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The film begins in an ironically comical fashion of the infamous seventies TV game show "To Tell the Truth" where he is dubbed 'the most outrageous imposter of the time'’. As a series of game contestants attempt to guess who the real Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) is, the real Frank Abagnale pans to a flashback… thus the history of his story begins.

Starting with his capture in Marseille France in 1969 the film depicts Frank's transfer from French to American authority. Meanwhile intermittent flashbacks tell the history of Frank’s biography.

Beginning in 1963 the audience observes Frank Jr's adolescent upbringing under the guidance of his loving mother and father Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken) and Paula (Nathalie Baye). But underneath their intense passion Frank’s parents are struggling to cope with Frank Sr.’s less than ethical lifestyle which provokes major trouble with the IRS and the Abagnale's eviction from their family home.

As the wily Frank Sr. rubs his bad habits off on his aging son, Frank Jr's loyalty to his father blinds him from the unethical habits of his father, and in deed begins to rub off on him starting with Frank Jr's assuming the identity of a substitute teacher for a class in which he was enrolled. Soon enough Frank Sr's relationship with Paula begins to dissipate and hints of an affair linger around their house which Frank Jr. accidentally stumbles upon. But on the night of Frank Sr. and Paula's divorce Frank Jr. heartbreakingly flees from him home and thus begins his wild adventures down ‘Crime Way’.

Starting from the beginning Frank Jr. embarks on a serious habit of writing fraudulent checks. But what starts out as $3.50 turns into checks for the sum of thousands of dollars as Frank begins to master his art of check forgery. Along the way Frank assumes the identity of a Pan Am co-pilot and travels the world in fan fare style. As he receives money from several influxes he begins to dote on his parents with expensive gifts in hopes it will help them reunite the family. But Frank's parents are in the same precarious situation and Frank Jr. is hard pressed to keep his head above water as Detective Carl Hanratty (Tom Cruise), fraudulent check inspector of the FBI crime department, begins his attempts to crack the case.

Flying all over the country Frank Jr. bamboozles his way into learning the know-how of the check-making system by preying on the ditty young women who swoon before his charming appearance. One by one Frank opens accounts in random banks and alternates the routing numbers to confuse the transporting system of his checks thereby stalling time before they reach their final destination to be cashed.

As he grows richer and richer Frank Jr. begins to life a grand life with expensive cars, nice clothes, and all the fineries a life of wealth brings with it. But come as they may the beautiful women do nothing to bring Frank Jr. pleasure and it isn’t until he meets the young and bashful Candy Striper Brenda Strong (Amy Adams) that he begins to dream of settling down. Once again Abagnale relies on his acting skills, this time impostering a Dr. as he begins to work for Brenda’s hospital under the name of Dr. Frank Conners. Slowly, Frank begins his subtle courting of Brenda beyond the eyes of fellow employees. To do his performance justice, Frank consumes hours of medical TV learning what he can about medical know-how that is anything but legitimate for a Dr. of a hospital. Nevertheless Frank pulls of his identity and uses it to ask Brenda’s parents for her hand in marriage.

While asking for her hand in marriage Frank 'Conners' explains that he is not only a pilot and a doctor but also a former lawyer who passed the bar in California after his studies at Berkeley. Mind you Frank Jr. is all of seventeen at this time. However, managing to bamboozle Brenda’s parents, Frank wins the honor of Brenda’s hand and the opportunity to take the Louisiana Bar exam which, after he passes the test, earns him a spot in Brenda’s father’s law firm.

Now making legitimate money Frank contacts Handratty and expresses his desire to end the chase. But Handratty explains to the naïve child that his disregard for the law cannot simply be left alone and that the sum of several millions of dollars must be paid for. Desperate, Frank is forced to leave his bride-to-be whose innocence is unable to contain her secret of his whereabouts. As Frank falls out of luck with Brenda he once again assumes his pilot in the sky identity and hires eight young women to be his stewardesses, which happen to be the perfect distraction in a high-security airport.

Whisking away to Europe, Frank begins to mass produce authentic checks that are being fraudulently cashed thereby extorting millions of dollars from European banks. But, as any good pursuit will end, Frank's glory days are ended after several years of Handratty's hard-pressed efforts. But despite his earnestness to capture his most elusive criminal, Handratty has grown a soft spot for his suspect. It seems the two lonely men have grown accustomed to their annual banter on Christmas Eve which has found a way to fill the void of a life without a family during the holidays. Doing his best to secure his safety, Handratty helps Abagnale get off of a rather severe sentence and enlists his help in the FBI crime department as none other than a fraudulent check investigator. Under the custody of Handratty, Abagnale agrees to work for the FBI for the remainder of his sentence whereby his ingenious helps bring down some of the world’s most elusive criminals thereafter his once powerful reign over the bank industry.

"Catch Me If You Can" is a brilliant film that carefully depicts the dramatic irony of one of America's most ingenious criminals. Turning his crime into profit, Abagnale’s once illegal habits help him become one of the more lucrative FBI agents whose mastery of the fraudulent check helps him earn millions of dollars in legitimate checks every year. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Abagnale's story is in recognizing his youth. Abagnale was probably one of the most ingenious criminal masterminds of the century and definitely the most prolific of his time. His story is almost too fantastic to believe and the comedic irony of the film lay in trying to comprehend how someone could actually pull of such an overwhelming amount of false identities and fraudulent checks over an extended period of time without being caught. But there the irony goes further as the film depicts how Abagnale evades capture again and again only to finally succumb to the dedicated efforts of Detective Handratty.

This film is as dramatic as it is comical, entertaining as it is reflective, and always is there the moral of family bonds and filial love underlying in the background. In fact it is probably Frank’s deep longing for a stable family that allows the audiences to in deed almost pity the antihero who is simply trying to stay alive in a world so cruel as to tear his parents apart.

Main Characters:

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Frank Abagnale Jr., a wily teenager who masters the art of producing fraudulent checks making him one of the youngest most prolific scam artists of the century.

Tom Hanks plays Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent whose hot pursuit for Abagnale fosters a pseudo paternal relationship with the criminal.

Christopher Walken plays Frank Abagnale Sr., Frank Jr's father whose romanticism, flippancy, and con artist ways rub off on his wily son.

Nathalie Baye plays Paula Abagnale, the beautiful French wife of Frank Abagnale Sr. whose efforts to keep her failing family afloat provoke an illicit affair.