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Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Garner, Martin Sheen, Christopher Walken

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Jeff Nathanson
Produced by: Steven Spielberg
Distributor: Dreamworks

US: 25/12/02 UK: 31/01/03

Based on a true story... Frank Abagnale, Jr. blagged his way in to work as a doctor, a lawyer, and as a co-pilot for a major airline - all before his 18th birthday. This master of deception, he was also a brilliant forger, whose skill gave him his first real claim to fame: Then he goes too far at the age of 17, becaming the most successful bank robber in the history of the United States. FBI Agent Carl Hanratty had made it his prime mission to capture Frank and bring him to justice, but Frank is always one step ahead of him, baiting him to continue the chase.
19 Jan/Jewsweek Magazine: The many sides of Steven Spielberg
18 Dec/Jennifer garners attention at New York premier
1 Dec/New York Times: Spielberg Recalls His Childhood, in Color Green

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Ebert & Roeper
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Tom Hanks is constantly after Leonardo DiCaprio - except when it comes to the movie billings


This is the second movie of 2002 for Spielberg, DiCaprio and Hanks, and it represents a wonderful type-shift for all of them. It's also one of the most brightly entertaining films of the year.

The true story centres on notorious conman Frank Abagnale Jr (DiCaprio), who at age 16 runs away from home when his parents (Walken and Baye, both fantastic) separate. In the next few years, he becomes an expert at cheque forgery and fraudulently works as a pilot, doctor and lawyer, all while the meticulous FBI agent Hanratty (Hanks) doggedly pursues him around the country. The surprise here is the film's fresh and jazzy tone (augmented by one of John Williams' most interesting scores). Spielberg has never done anything like this; while it still has his trademarks--an assured point of view, technical genius, strong character focus--but it's also drenched in a newfound playfulness.

This sense of fun permeates the performances, which still manage to have an edge of maturity and introspection to them. DiCaprio gives an energetic yet measured turn as a young man acting out every schoolboy fantasy, enjoying the high life and trying to ignore his demons. Hanks is superb as the grumpy workaholic, fed up with the silly antics of everyone around him. His personal life is even more frustrating than his professional one, yet he somehow keeps it all in perspective. As the film progresses it feels almost effortless in its brisk pacing and colourful design. The themes are refreshingly subtle, even though Spielberg knows how to punch all the right buttons to make sure we don't miss the point. With its extended epilogue, the film feels about a half-hour too long, but the story is so good and there are so many fabulous set pieces that you can't imagine leaving anything out.


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