Catch Me If You Can - synopsis

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Catch Me If You Can is a 2002 motion picture set in the 1960s. It was co-produced and directed by Steven Spielberg and adapted by Jeff Nathanson loosely from the book by Frank Abagnale Jr. and Stan Redding. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.


The film begins with an FBI agent, Carl Hanratty Jr. (Tom Hanks), arriving at a French jail in 1969 to meet an imprisoned and sick Frank, who attempts to escape. The scene flashes back six years earlier. Frank's father, Frank Sr. cons a woman to lend him a suit for Frank Jr., who later guises as a driver for Frank Sr. to get a loan from Chase Manhattan Bank. When the loan is denied (due to IRS tax evasions by Frank Sr.), the family is forced to move from their grand home to a small apartment, with tension building between the family; it also appears that his mother is having an adulterous affair with the bank agent as well. Frank Jr., feeling he will not fit in at his new school, poses as a substitute teacher in a French class for a short time.

Eventually, tension builds between Frank’s mother and father, who eventually file for divorce. Frank runs away from home, using checks that his father gave him. When Frank runs out of money, he begins to use con tricks. Eventually, Frank’s cons bring him more success as he impersonates an airline pilot. He ends up forging Pan Am payroll checks and after a small amount of time ends up stealing over 2.8 million dollars.

Meanwhile Carl Hanratty, a humorless FBI bank fraud agent, begins to track down Frank with little help from his superiors, as most of them do not look at bank fraud seriously. While investigating a hotel, Carl discovers that Frank is in the hotel and runs into his room to arrest him. Not knowing who Carl is, Frank says his name is Barry Allen and that he is from the Secret Service, saying that he has just caught the perpetrator. It is not until after Frank has left that Carl realizes he has been fooled. Later, at Christmas, Carl is still working when Frank calls him, attempting to apologize for duping Carl. Carl rejects his apology and laughs when he realizes that Frank actually called him because he has no one else to talk to. Frank hangs up, and Carl continues to investigate, suddenly realizing that the name “Barry Allen” is from The Flash comic books and that Frank is actually a minor.

Frank, meanwhile, has not only changed to becoming a doctor and being a lawyer (inspiring Carl to continuously ask Frank how he cheated on the Bar Exam), but has fallen in love with a nurse, Brenda (Amy Adams), a Southern Belle who works with him in the hospital. It is to Brenda that he eventually admits the truth about himself and asks her to run away with him. However, he later realizes that she has turned him in and escapes on a flight to Europe. Six months later, Carl shows his boss that Frank has been forging checks all over the hemisphere and that he’s out of control, and wants permission to go to Europe to look for him. When his boss denies him permission, Carl brings Frank’s checks to professionals who deem that the check was printed in France. Remembering from an interview with Paula, Frank’s mother, that she was born in Montrichard, France, Carl goes there where he finds Frank, and tells him that the French police will kill him if he doesn’t go with Carl quietly. Frank assumes he is joking at first, but Carl promises Frank he would never lie to him, and Carl takes him outside, where the French police escort him to prison.

The scene then flashes forward to a plane returning Frank home from prison, where Carl informs him that his father has died. Consumed with grief, Frank escapes from his plane and goes back to his old house, where he finds his mother with the man she left his father for, as well as a girl that Frank realizes is his sister. Frank gives up and is sentenced to prison, getting visits from time to time by Carl. During one such visit, Frank easily deduces the identity of a forger by glancing at some checks Carl is carrying as evidence. Impressed, Carl then arranges for Frank to be allowed to serve out the remainder of his sentence working for the check fraud department of the FBI under Carl's custody, to which Frank accepts. Though enjoying his semi-freedom and professional job, Frank misses the thrill of the chase and even attempts to fly as an airline pilot again. He is cornered by Carl, who insists that Frank will return at the end of the weekend, since there is no one chasing him.

On Monday, Carl is nervous that Frank has not appeared to work yet and is almost regretful at assuming too much about Frank. However, Frank soon shows up and Carl informs him about their next case. During the examination, Carl asks Frank how he cheated on the Bar Exam, to which Frank replies that he didn’t – he had studied for only two weeks and actually passed the exam. Astounded, Carl asks him "Is that the truth, Frank?" to which Frank merely smiles. Carl smiles back and the two continue to investigate their next case.

Source: Wikipedia

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Read this description of the 1940s novel "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" that was later made into a film. They are making a new version of the film now but it won't be in the cinemas until 2009.

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Image source: Wikipedia