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The term “based on a true story” always adds a layer of intrigue to a movie. That moment during the opening credits of the movie when these words are displayed causes audiences to pay more attention as they realize what they are about to watch is possible. The knowledge that there is a real story behind the fantasy allows a connection to be formed more easily. However, the challenge of fitting a real event that happened over the course of years into a two-hour movie often results in poor quality and inaccuracies. This is not the case in Steven Spielberg’s film Catch Me If You Can . Spielberg captures the essence of his story and wraps it up in a film that entertains while not damaging the integrity of the true story it is based on.

           Leonardo DiCaprio , who plays the lead role of Frank Abagnale , remarks that “things that happen in real life are sometimes a hundred times more fascinating than anything a person could make up off the top of his head” (Catch Me If You Can: Production Notes ). The life of Frank Abagnale inspired Catch Me If You Can and his story could not have possibly been fabricated. An exceptional con man, Abagnale “successfully posed as an airline pilot, an attorney, a college professor and a pediatrician, in addition to cashing $2.5 million in fraudulent checks in every state and 26 foreign countries between the ages of 16 and 21” (About Frank Abagnale ). Therefore, creating a compelling story was not a problem. However, condensing five years of wild stories into two years proved difficult.

            There are many differences between the film and what actually happened. These type of inconsistencies are common in movies based on true stories and usually hurt the plot. However, Spielberg creatively pieces together different pieces of Abagnale’s journey without hurting the message. The scene in which Carl (Tom Hanks ) finally catches Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) serves as a perfect example. The scene is set in a printing workshop in Montrichard, France as Carl finally corners Frank and arrests him. In reality, Carl Hanratty was not there for Frank’s arrest and it occurred somewhere else in France. Spielberg chose to stage the arrest in Montrichard because that was the town that Frank’s mom was from. Throughout the movie he uses the town and Frank’s father’s anecdote about meeting his mother repeatedly. He tied the motif of the town into the movie to form a connection between Frank and his heritage that the audience might have missed. Frank’s mother left his father and married another man after the family business failed. It was Frank’s goal to get them back together by insuring his father’s financial security. Therefore, Spielberg used one small piece of Abagnale’s story to reveal Frank’s motivation to make money to bring his parents back together.