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Six Of The Best – Steven Spielberg

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Spielberg’s been out of the director’s chair for a little while (since Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls) but is making up for lost time by putting out action-adventure spectacle (Tintin) and serious drama (War Horse) in short succession. It’s like 1993 all over again.

In honour of Spielberg returning to action, here are six of his best.

They are in no particular order and other opinions are available (please share yours in the comments section):-

6. Jaws

As with each film on this list, there is an insurmountable challenge in trying to find something new to say and so it eventually comes down to simply restating what anyone with half a mind already knows to be true, namely that Jaws is one of the finest films of this or any decade, genre or director.

A masterclass in atmosphere-building, working with limited resources and almost debilitating technical problems, Spielberg crafted a film of almost peerless tension, thrills and technical virtuosity. It is difficult to distil its high-points to a manageable few, but the appearance of the shark (nick-named Bruce after Spielberg’s lawyer, a name echoed in Nemo years later) as Roy Scheider chums the waters (“you’re gonna need a bigger boat”), the body popping out of the boat as Richard Dreyfus dives down to a wreck, John Williams’ matchless score as we witness the first strike on a skinny-dipper, the focus pull / dolly zoom on Scheider as he sits on the beach and sees the kid disappear in a plume of crimson and Quint’s fingernails on the blackboard all resonate to this day.

It’s been years since I last watched it, but it never ceases to feel fresh on each repeat viewing. Despite unimaginable leaps and bounds in special effects, Bruce remains an effective and affecting antagonist, even with the afore-mentioned technical difficulties. Although in many ways it is as impersonal and relentless as the truck driver in Duel (the film in Spielberg’s cannon to which this bears closest resemblance), it doesn’t feel as mechanical as a villain without a human face might be expected to be. My 11 year-old son, raised on a steady diet of far superior special-effects and model work has seen Jaws a few times now and he loves it too.

Consider it whole-heartedly recommended by both of us.

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