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Catch Me If You Can

Reviewed By wintermute
Posted 01/07/03 05:37:35

"Catch it on video"
3 stars (Average)

Can it be that Spielberg has finally lost the sense of wonder and spectacle that were the hallmarks of his films between 1975 and 1993? Has he finally settled into the descending arc of his career, churning out respectable but ultimately uninspired cinematic fodder? Judging from his last 3 films, all indicators are pointing to 'yes'.

What happened in the 3 years between Saving Private Ryan and A.I.? What changed inside the mind of one of the most gifted storytellers of the last 50 years? To watch a Spielberg film these days is to see the master through a pane of fogged glass - we can see the outline of the man, but his face is no longer recognizable.

Catch Me If You Can is symptomatic of Spielberg's new condition. Certainly, the premise of film is interesting: Frank Abagnale Jr cheats and scams his way through his later teenage years in a vain effort to escape the divorce of his parents. Leonardo DiCaprio surpasses his pretty boy image to deliver a believable turn as the mixed up Abagnale, going through life's first experiences on the run. Nathalie Bay makes us hate her as his whorish mother and Christopher Walken floats through his performance as a deadbeat dad of a different colour. Strongly disappointing, however, is Tom Hanks, who as Agent Hanratty chases Abagnale across America and eventually across the Atlantic. 2 dimensional to say the least, Hanks could easily have been replaced by C3P0 for all the humanity and problem solving skills he displayed as the dedicated FBI agent married to his job.

Visually, all of our cues are lifted straight from what the American public imagines an idealized 60's to have been like - peaceful blues, crisp airline uniforms, and not a hint of counterculture. Men are earners, women are giggling objects, and the FBI is made up of thuggish louts who probably wouldn't make it in private industry. The camera work is of course very watchable, but ultimately, empty - compositionally, there was little that held my attention for more than a few seconds, which made me keep asking myself, 'what makes me want to watch this'?

It certainly wasn't the plot. By the end of the film, I simply couldn't relate to either DiCaprio or Hanks - they both seemed isolated and unreachable to me, both of them in worlds of their own creation. I was finally intrigued in the closing moments of the film when the focus turned to different counterfeiting methods and Abagnale's ability to spot forgeries. But it was too little, too late.

While it may seem like the real thing, by the end this film is revealed to be emotionally counterfeit. Spielberg's spiral into merely acceptable filmmaking saddens and alarms me, and while this film was not in any way terrible, neither was it in any inspired. Note for Spielberg watchers: Opening Credits!

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