Frank Abangale Jr. forged his first check at age 16 out of a checkbook given to him by his father. Most teens in the ’60s would have been enamored with $25 in their pocket. Abangale had a different idea.
He wanted millions, almost obsessively. Sly and sneaky, he worked his way onto airplanes as a co-pilot. He didn’t want to fly but merely take advantage of the banking system that relied on postal services to send checks cross-country. There’s was a sense of personal pride too; Abangale’s parents were divorced, and he became a conqueror of the system. With a glimmer in his eye, he thought money could solve everything.
Leonardo DiCaprio is lively as Abangale, playing a role based on the memoir of a compulsive liar. Who know whats true? DiCaprio mirrors James Bond, a slick womanizer who loves them as much as he does their professions: he works his charms on banks clerks who naively produce routing information or other necessities related to his impromptu employment.
Chasing him is a reclusive FBI agent, Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks). When the FBI learns of his scheme, businesses are already out over a million dollars. Abangale is a swift mover. He doesn’t stay in one place or place himself within any singular avocation. Hanratty is tracking a teacher, a pilot, a lawyer, secret service agent, and a doctor, at times all at once.
Behind the lens, Spielberg works his actors. Tracked down to a hotel, Hanratty and Abangale meet in a room, only one of them knowing the identity of the other. Both actors work their roles, Hanratty suspicious but fooled, Abangale a nervous wreck with an enormous amount of cool. Their interplay is genius.
Catch Me if You Can doesn’t need much beyond its locations, that in comparison to Spielberg’s often large scale extravaganzas. It’s a small scale film that drops a tight focus on beautifully lit actors as they cross nations in search of one another. By the scheme’s end, Abangale is a victim of his own torment. That’s DiCaprio’s chance to shine, and character to bubble over. Hanratty learns to respect his foe despite being enamored with his capture. Both sides come across as compulsive.
Breezy in tone, Catch Me If You Can is driven by a liar and a thief. Somehow, that’s respectful to the audience. Abangale is too slick to dislike, and paired with a genuinely flirtatious, inventive John Williams score – also out of his usual wheelhouse – the film is an easy to pass over classic. In between future murders in Minority Report and smaller gem The Terminal, Spielberg cranked out his least signature piece. It’s almost too simple, but Abangale isn’t which must have been the draw.
Once you get over the fact that The Terminal isn’t on Blu-ray yet (ridiculous, right?), you can settle in and know that Paramount has at least taken care of Catch Me. Generously given an AVC encode that can handle the complexity of the photography, the film is captured in HD with a modern scan and plenty of texture. Contrast is almost a given with such scene-drowning lighting pouring from windows.
Catch Me isn’t consistent by its nature, and that’s not a knock on the material. Colors shift from an overwhelming teal push in the opening shots into a brightly saturated Abangale celebrating Christmas. The film will dim, take on yellowish tints, and scour flesh tones to a pale existence as scenes pass by. This look captures a time capsule and a country shifting its values all while celebrating crucial narrative holidays.
Even with filters passed over certain actors, Catch Me will rarely lose its sense of precision sharpness. Close-ups are fitted with satisfying definition, exteriors look fantastic, and medium shots never lose their filmic qualities (and without print damage). The real struggle is a high grain structure that will pass across walls or take residence in the lightly fogged interiors. Lighting will force the issue. Despite some misgiving in terms of image impact, the encode will prove high class enough to push through the thick of it.
It’s easy to forget how far we’ve moved in 10 years or so. Catch Me opens on a wonderful, inventive credit sequence with a typically static blue backdrop. On DVD, elements like that were havens for intense compression. Blu-ray doesn’t allow for any. It’s such a pure image and even humbling in a way when it’s so easy to criticize image quality sometimes. There are concerns here, but have we ever come a long way in home media.
Subtle and beautiful conveys what Catch Me will do with audio, beginning with intense rain that swallows the image with enveloping positional use, into a prison that brings the ruckus as inmates slam their cell doors. It’s instantaneous immersion.
Airports are critical junction points for the story, with lobbies still capturing take offs in the surrounds and the crowds awaiting their flights. There’s also a sequel to the rain inside a hospital midway though which produces an entirely different type of sound with equal effectiveness. As a final glimmer of what audio can add, Hanratty tracks his target to a printing shop that livens up the scene with machinery turning and engines rumbling. It’s a complete representation of the scene.
Williams’ score will flutter into action as needed, often played down for effect and catching up as it’s required. There’s no loss of fidelity to the dialogue due to limited age.
Ported DVD extras comprise the bonuses, complete without missing anything. Behind the Camera follows the genesis of the idea, Abangale himself, and the filming process for 17-minutes. Cast Me If You Can splits into five sections to cover the main cast and their roles. John Williams has a chance to discuss his methodology in a scoring section, and a four-part look at the real Abangale will separate the fiction from the truth.
The FBI Perspective chronicles the role of a retired FBI agent as he takes on his first consulting work. In Closing will bring it all together, and a photo gallery section produces plenty of images. Quality material if overall dated.
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