Iâ€™m going to continue the series begun by Geoff with the movie Catch Me If You Can. In this fact-based movie (I donâ€™t know what was changed for dramatic purposes, so my thoughts stem only from the movie, not what may have actually happened), Frank Abagnale Jr., a teenager, becomes a brilliant con artist, and cashes millions of dollars of fraudulent checks in many countries. He begins his path when his father gets in trouble with the IRS, and then his parents separate. He wants to regain his fatherâ€™s losses and get his parents back together, figuring if he can fix their money problems, then they will be happy again. He impersonates an airline pilot, doctor, and lawyer, all quite successfully, even though he is a teenager. At one point, Frank is clearly tired of running from the FBI and anyone else who would know he is a fraud, and goes to his father, clearly wanting to be acceptable in his fatherâ€™s eyes and able to stop lying and running. His father just encourages him to continue. From early on, the FBI pursues him, led by Agent Carl Hanratty. After a few years, Hanratty succeeds in catching Frank in France, and Frank is tried and jailed.
Here is where I find the movie turns from merely an interesting story, into a tale with a spiritual theme. It would be so easy for Hanratty, whose attempts to catch Frank were frustrated by mere moments and sly slips more than once, to be justifiably angry towards Frank, happy to lock him up and throw away the key. But though he did his job and finally apprehended Frank, he did it with compassion. There was no grandstanding or taunting. He felt bad when he had to tell Frank that his father was dead. He saw Frank as a complex, feeling human being. That didnâ€™t mean justice was not to be carried out, but that justice was tempered with kindness.
After Frank was in prison, Hanratty visited him, bringing him comics books, which he knew from his pursuit Frank enjoyed. Again, kindness. While speaking with Frank, Hanratty mentioned that he was pursuing another person writing fraudulent checks. Frank asked to see the check, and when Hanratty obliged him, Frank pointed out everything that was wrong with the check, what the forger was doing that would make it possible for the FBI to catch him. Hanratty, realizing that Frank could be of use to the FBI, wanted to recruit him, but first he had to get him released from prison. After a few years, it happened.
This is where I see a theme of forgiveness along with the kindness and compassion. Hanratty saw Frank as an asset, certainly, but he still saw him as a person and cared about him. Frank was definitely still a flight risk, and after that first week on the job, Frank did indeed run. Hanratty found him at the airport, again impersonating a pilot, but this was not a pursuit. He merely let Frank know he did not need to run anymore, that his fate was fully in his hands, and he had a good option that had just been handed to him that he could choose. Though late, Frank did return Monday morning. He proved to be a wonderful help to the FBI and to banking security, and Frank and Hanratty developed a strong friendship.
Would such a tale have happened if, as seems so easy, Hanratty had been cruel or indifferent, seeing Frank â€“ a criminal who had stolen millions â€“ as nothing more than that criminal? The people Iâ€™m surrounded by are not criminals or the dregs of society. Am I that kind to those who cross me or hurt me? Am I willing to see others as people who think and feel, not merely as an annoyance with a name?