Steven Spielberg: John Spellman / Retna
Owen Gleiberman
November 09, 2006 AT 05:00 AM EST

Which director has grown the most?

Which director has displayed the most growth? — Raymond

In a way, the answer is obvious: Steven Spielberg. In another way, it’s not obvious at all. He was such a virtuoso right out of the gate (the sinister ingenuity of Duel and Jaws, the gaga techno-grandeur of Close Encounters of the Third Kind) that his career has to be measured against an unprecedented early peak. Yet if that genius is often taken for granted, so, by now, is the leap that Spielberg took as an artist — by tossing away his storyboards to re-create the madness of the Holocaust in Schindler’s List, then plunging even further into hell with Saving Private Ryan, the war film that transcends all other war films. That the maker of a sublime daydream like E.T. could take that dual voyage into the abyss was the cinematic equivalent of Dickens turning himself, overnight, into Dostoyevsky. Last year’s double bill of War of the Worlds and Munich only confirms that Spielberg is the modern film artist of the most singular, creative, and ever-evolving range.

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