Spielberg gives us a film inspired by true life events, and puts Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christopher Walken through their paces as I dig into another title mentioned in Ten Bad Dates With De Niro.
DiCaprio plays Frank Abagnale, Jr., the youngest counterfeiter and fraud in American history. Before his nineteenth birthday, he’s cashed millions of dollars of forged cheques, and posed as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor and a lawyer. DiCaprio brings him to charming life, while Hanks plays the determined FBI agent, Carl Hanratty, who has been assigned to the case.
The two play a wonderful cat and mouse game with one another, all brilliantly supported by a playful, slightly jazzy score by John Williams, so while we recognise that Frank is doing some horrible things, he’s not really hurting anyone, he’s a kid, and there’s a sense of fun to it.
It helps that both the leads are so damned likeable, and casting Walken as Frank’s father, Frank Sr. is perfectly on point. But the casting brilliance doesn’t stop there, Amy Adams, Martin Sheen, Jennifer Garner, Elizabeth Banks, James Brolin, Ellen Pompeo – this is a fantastically stacked cast, and it’s very easy to lose oneself in the storytelling magic that Spielberg weaves.
It’s almost, almost, his version of a Bond film, and his favourite one, Goldfinger, gets a huge nod and homage.
Frank and Carl end up being complete opposites, balancing one another. When Frank is pulling one over someone’s eyes, the colours are brighter, more vibrant, and when Carl is on the scene, it’s all very drab and governmental.
And watching the two together, well, that’s just fun.
There’s a Capra-esque feeling to this film, like a lot of Spielberg films, and it also deals with a broken home, something that Spielberg does a lot of as well, because of his own youth, and it all comes together in this confection that is joyously pleasing and while not quite a departure in Spielberg’s subject matter, definitely feels unique at the same time.
Anytime I hear about a collaboration between Hanks and Spielberg I get excited, and this one didn’t disappoint. It’s just such an amazing story, and while you get a glimpse of how Frank pulled some of the things off, you have to marvel at the sheer gall and self-confidence he exuded to do that.
I remember my own late teen years, and we have a teen living with us now, and neither I nor him, would be able to have accomplished any of these things at that age.
It remains a great Spielberg film, and one that I feel kind of gets passed over for his more fantastical work.
I can’t wait to see what is showing up next in Ten Bad Dates With De Niro.