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“Catch Me If You Can” a Film by Steven Spielberg


The life and adventures of Frank Abagnale were portrayed in the film Catch Me If You Can by Steven Spielberg. The movie was released in 2002. It represented the biographical and the detective genre. The aim of this essay is to analyze the plot of the film and to find out whether it accurately portrays the actual biography of Frank Abagnale.

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The Summary of the Plot

The movie Catch Me If You Can uncovers the machinations of Frank Abagnale, who has managed to earn the millions of dollars by stealing the money from the bank accounts. The role of Frank has been played by Leoardo Di Caprio. Tom Hanks has portrayed Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent who tries to catch Frank. The movie depicts the life of Abagnale from the time when he is 13 years old. According to the movie plot, Frank starts to use tricky schemes to steal money when he has run away from home after the divorce of his parents. The filmmakers want to show that Abagnale pursues for the high values by shabby acts. He thinks that he needs a lot of money to reunite his family (Holden n.pag.).

He has managed to steal millions of dollars but he continues to outrun the law and to steal more and more. Hanratty does his best to catch him but his every attempt comes to nothing. Abagnale masterly plays his different roles in this game. We can see him as an employee of the leading airline company, as the legal expert, and even as the pediatrician. He tries to wipe out the tracks and to confuse the FBI. “Combined with the charm and panache, the ability to appear innocent gives him apparent credibility and – just as important – youthful fearless, which has made him one of the most successful con men in history” (“Catch Me if You Can” n.pag.). Abagnale has been ultimately caught in France.

The Actual Biography

The actual biography of Frank Abagnale is quite different from the one portrayed in the film. He really was the artful fraudster and he started his activity when he was a teenager. The family problems really influenced him substantially but it was a different kind of impact. Frank inherited many of the skills and personal traits from his father, who was the businessman and the quick-witted and sociable person. The divorce of parents affected Frank essentially. It was a moral trauma for him and he tried to reunite them but, in contrast to the plot of the film, his relationships with his father were not actually so good and friendly (“Frank Abagnale. Biography” n.pag.). Indeed, Mr. Abagnale Sr. was not very enthusiastic in taking care for his son. Moreover, Frank cheated him and stole his money.

Later, his actions turned to the real crimes. He started to use the tricky schemes to transmit money to his account from the accounts of other bank clients. He managed to realize his schemes by sending the bad checks to the bank. “Frank realized that he could cash more bad checks if he dazzled bank tellers with a new, more impressive personality” (“Frank Abagnale. Biography” n.pag.). That is why he changed his personality several times by using the forged diplomas and false personal data. Ironically, he would even use the forged diploma of Harvard in order to get the job of the legal expert.

Firstly, he became the pilot of the leading airways company. He thought that such kind of occupation would help him to avoid the pursuit of the police. He managed to gather a lot of useful information about the airways industry and the work of pilot by using the false employee identification number. This knowledge would subsequently help him to holeup successfully by getting on the board of the planes and travelling from one country to another one (“Frank Abagnale. Biography” n.pag.).

After the years of pretending that he was a pilot, Frank changed his role. He decided that the profession of the pediatrician would be safer for him. “Over the next two years, Abagnale bounced from job to job—passing the bar as a legal assistant in Louisiana; teaching sociology at Brigham Young; and pretending he was a film director” (“Frank Abagnale. Biography” n.pag.).

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Frank was caught in France and spent several months in the local prison. Later, he was extradited from one European country to another. In particular, Abagnale was judged by the courts of Sweden and Italy. Taking into account that he used his fraudulent schemes in many countries, he was the target of the local police and Interpol. Eventually, he had been caught the FBI and sentenced to the12 years of imprisonment. However, due to his extraordinary abilities and knowledge of the fraudulent schemes, the FBI offered him the shortening of the term of imprisonment in case if he agreed to cooperate with it. It was not surprising, that Abagnale became the FBI agent helping the agency to solve the cases.

Nowadays, Frank Abagnale is the millionaire, who has earned his money by the legal business activity. He is the chief of his own consulting company, which specializes in the bank security and fraud protection. He is also the author of several books on the security and fraud prevention (“Frank Abagnale. Biography” n.pag.).

The Discussion

The film Catch Me If You Can is, undoubtedly, one of the best movies of the last decades. However, it is obvious that it has been created for the purpose of entertaining the audience, not for the in-depth analysis of Frank Abagnale personality. At the same time, it should be noted that the plot of the film is rather close to the real biography of the famous cheater of the modern time. I think the actors perfectly portrayed the personalities of the main characters. The movie scenes greatly reflect the moods and lifestyle of the 1960s. Nevertheless, I think that the personality of Abagnale is not as charming as the film portrays it. Ultimately, he has stolen the money of people who earned them honestly. Overall, the film Catch Me If You Can is very interesting and is, undoubtedly, worthy to watch.


In order to sum up all above mentioned, it should be said that the film Catch Me If You Can portrays the life and the fraudulent activity of Frank Abagnale. Although there are some details of his biography, which have been changed by the filmmakers, the plot of Catch Me If You Can is very close to the real facts. Frank Abagnale is very interesting personality and his extraordinary skills will hardly be forgotten by the public. I like this movie and I recommend watching it to everyone.

Works Cited

“Catch Me If You Can”. 2003. Web.

“Frank Abagnale. Biography”. 2013. Web.

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Holden, Stephen. “Catch Me If You Can (2002): Film Review; Taking to a Gullible World Like a Mouse to Swiss Cheese.” The New York Times., 2002. Web.

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