Steven Spielberg directed this film about the real-life cons that Frank Abagnale Jr. pulled in the late 1950s and early 1960s before being caught. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Frank Jr while Christopher Walken plays Frank Sr. Tom Hanks as Carl Hanratty, an FBI agent focused on bank fraud. Amy Adams had her breakout performance as Brenda Strong, the daughter of Roger Strong, played by Martin Sheen. Jennifer Garner also has a brief role.
The film spends a lot of time focusing on Frank’s impersonation of a Pan-Am pilot. This movie was released after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, so the lack of security in airports is a long-forgotten memory by now for most of the audience. It is set in the golden age of flying when it was glamorous to fly and not just a means of transportation to get from A to B. I have a nostalgia for this era that I was never a part of because of my love of flying.
The movie is well executed and well-acted, but that is no surprise based on who was involved. How the movie has aged is up to the viewer. The idea of celebrating a con artist on screen is somewhat problematic. Frank Abagnale Jr eventually worked for the FBI and set up a security consulting firm earning millions of legitimate dollars every year. He used the skills that he acquired illegally, got out of prison early on a work release to the FBI, and leverage it all to have an impactful career. It is not a lesson that you want to teach children.
The story is great for film because of the drama, glamour, and grounding. Tom Hanks is great playing the ultimate Boy Scout, and FBI agent. Leonardo DiCaprio was still in the baby-faced phase of his career collecting hearts as he went along. Steven Spielberg was starting his renaissance behind the camera. It all adds up to a well-timed film that generally stands the test of time. It is a fun and light 141 minutes that a family can enjoy.