Having never been a big fan of Hanks, Spielberg, DiCaprio or the 50s/60s, I wasn’t expecting much going into this which is why it surprised the hell out of me that this ended up being one of my favourite films of the year.
After wallowing in dark and flashy FX-filled territory for years now with mixed results, ‘Catch’ is a return to more conventional filmmaking for Spielberg and proves his most crowd pleasing and entertaining directorial work since “Jurassic Park”. This is a flashback to the old caper movies of several decades ago which funnily enough is the time this film is set in, and lo and behold it gets away with its premise of a teen conman which would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact quite a bit of it is true. Helping it along is Jeff Nathanson’s script with humour of both situational and visual varieties constantly hitting you in clever offbeat ways without being derogatory, overly self-referential or cynical like most modern attempts at ‘comedy’.
DiCaprio and Hanks deliver performances tone perfect for the material, giving the right moments the seriousness they deserve and yet having a ball with their various comedic timings and situations as the naughty rebel and the uptight authority man. Christopher Walken gives us a more controlled and emotional role than what we’re used to seeing from him and while he makes the material his own, this subplot about fatherhood is what there’ll be debates over as it essentially slows down the movie in spots whilst situations like with James Brolin’s character feel awkwardly handled. Martin Sheen makes a welcome return to the big screen although the role, which is perfectly setup for a bravura comic tour-de-force, is underwritten and should’ve been better. On the flipside “Alias” babe Jennifer Garner has a splendid cameo as a high class prostitute.
There’s loving mentions and in-jokes of the time from the brilliant “Goldfinger” clip and Bond joke inclusion, to the clothing and Pan Am gags of the era – Spielberg’s sense of love for the time comes out superbly and blends a rich element to the proceedings. Likewise the attention to detail with the various methods of fraud by which Frank pulls off his tricks show sign of a director totally at ease and willing to play with the material which is only a benefit in this case. At 140 minutes the film does run about 15 minutes too long and the last 20 minutes does lack the snappy pacing of the rest of the movie, nevertheless this is one of the most entertaining and enjoyable films you’ll see in the cinema this season and definitely one to catch quickly.