Well here it is. The end. I’m finishing my series of Jaws reviews with the first of the series, a film that kept entire generations out of the water a film that launched the career of one of the finest directors of all time, a film that perfected a genre and defined the term ‘Summer Blockbuster’ widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. This is Jaws.
The film centres around a small island town whose Fourth of July Celebrations are threatened by a killer shark. The island’s police chief, Sheriff Brody (played by Roy Schneider) embarks on a hunt to kill the beast with gruff fisherman Quint (Played by Robert Shaw ) and Oceanographer Matt Hooper (Played by Richard Dreyfuss).
I love this film. The acting is excellent, especially from the three main characters and the scenes in the boat in the third act are just gold. The way that these three men interact with one another are just exquisite. Dreyfus and Shaw hated each other and this translates brilliantly on-screen. Quint’s story about the USS Indianapolis sinking and the mass shark feasting is still chilling and who can forget their rendition of ‘show me the way to go home’. In fact the three best things about that section of the film is the way the characters interact, the fact that the three characters are so isolated that it makes the film scarier and distant, and the way the scene in the boat switches atmosphere so quickly and well. Jaw receives acclaim for its musical score and this should certainly be raised here. John Williams is undoubtably one of the finest composers in history and it is Williams who is the shark. Spielberg used a mechanical shark (named Bruce after his lawyer) which caused the film to be famously plagued with issues from the start. The thing sank, it looked really unrealistic, had to be dragged along by boats to make it look like it was swimming etc, all in all it was abysmal. Indeed, Spielberg’s entire success with Jaws can be attributed to the score and the way it builds up tension so well. That opening scene is still pretty chilling even today for two main reasons. Firstly the score is fantastic. Secondly the way the film is shot from the shark’s perspective alienates the shark more. We cannot see it yet we are so very close to it. We become the shark, we see it’s actions and yet we can do nothing to prevent the bloodshed. This is a technique used throughout the film. Even so Spielberg owes his success to that crap mechanical shark and John William’s majesty as a composer, Spielberg got lucky. That score will go down in history as one of the most famous pieces of movie music ever. The film delivers only two jumpy scary moments (both scared me the first time I watched it) and the film relies more on what isn’t there rather than what is there, as mentioned before this is what gives the film it’s success. I can’t think of any bad things about this film, it is practically perfect in every way. The characters go together perfectly, Quint, Hooper and Brody especially and the whole Quint/Captain Ahab back story is brilliant. This film was the first summer blockbuster and perfected the use of tension, perhaps the best example of a film to do so since Hitchcock’s classics.
Jaws is one of the greatest films ever made and it certainly kept me out of the water.