In director Steven Spielberg’s four decade-long career, the filmmaker has tackled a variety of genres and topics that amounts to a delightfully diverse oeuvre. In the early 2000s, Spielberg was coming off three back-to-back films that dealt with fairly heady material (Saving Private Ryan, A.I., and Minority Report) and decided to tackle something a bit lighter. He assembled a top notch cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, and the result is arguably one of the most entertaining films of Spielberg’s entire career: Catch Me If You Can. The 2002 film has been digitally remastered and released on Blu-ray for the very first time, and you can read my review of the home video release after the jump.
Catch Me If You Can is based on the life of Frank Abagnale Jr. who, before he turned 19, had successfully posed as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer and passed $2.5 million worth of forged checks. DiCaprio plays the young Abagnale with an effortless charm, and we never forget that at this character’s heart he’s still a teenager who desperately seeks the approval of his father. Speaking of which, Christopher Walken is perfectly cast as the senior Abagnale, a charmer in his own right whose transgressions factor into the dissolution of his marriage.
It’s the divorce of his parents that sets Abagnale on his path of crime, and as is Spielberg custom, at the center of Catch Me if You Can is a father-son story. Tom Hanks plays Carl Hanratty, the lead FBI agent who is on the heels of Abagnale’s paper trail, and its one of Hanks’ best comedic performances. Hanks plays Hanratty as funny without ever coming off as a bumbling doofus, and some quieter dramatic scenes set Hanratty up as a surrogate father to Abagnale as the teenager slowly begins to realize that life on the run is lonely.
The film’s 140 minute runtime flies by, and it’s clear with Catch Me if You Can that Spielberg was setting out to make pure entertainment; I’d go so far as to say that this is the most fun film of his career. It’s not as affecting as Schindler’s List or as visceral as Saving Private Ryan, but damn is it an enjoyable ride from start to finish. Spielberg’s crew does top-notch work as well, as Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography is colorful and soft, and John Williams’ unforgettable score is a high point in another long and fruitful career.
In short, the HD transfer here is excellent. There are a few soft scenes here and there, but that’s a product of Kaminski’s muted camerawork. The abundance of light is tremendous and the 60s colors are vibrant and popping, making for a great visual treat. The sound is also top notch, with Williams’ swell score bellowing throughout the film.
Though the picture quality on the Blu-ray is great, there are sadly no new special features to be found. Instead, the extras from the previous DVD release are ported over and presented in standard definition. It would’ve been nice to see some kind of retrospective or something, at least on Williams’ score, but the DVD’s special features aren’t too shabby as is. Here’s a brief rundown of the bonus features:
- Catch Me If You Can: Behind the Camera (17 minutes) – This is a pretty standard featurette that covers the making of the film from development to design to production, but it’s worthwhile if only to get a look at how Spielberg works on set.
- CAST Me If You Can: The Casting of the Film (28 minutes) – A collection of five separate featurettes that focus on the casting of the film. There are separate ones for Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken and Nathalie Baye, Martin Sheen and Amy Adams, and Jennifer Garner. Again, this is pretty standard making-of stuff, but there are fascinating thoughts from the real Frank Abagnale sprinkled throughout.
- Scoring: Catch Me If You Can (5 minutes) – A far too brief featurette on John Williams’ score. Williams talks about how much fun he had collaborating with Spielberg on a film that was lighter in tone, and discusses rediscovering his love for jazz while composing the score.
- Frank Abagnale: Between Reality and Fiction (15 minutes) – Arguably the most fascinating extra on the disc, this collection of four smaller featurettes focus on the real Frank Abagnale and include interviews with the cast and crew, as well as the man himself, about his life and escapades.
- The FBI Perspective (7 minutes) – This short featurette focuses on the authenticity of the film’s FBI investigation and predominantly features FBI technical advisor William J. Rehder.
- Catch Me If You Can: In Closing (5 minutes) – This very fluffy wrap-up featurette has the cast and crew discussing the film’s themes.