Jaws (1975) 4.82/5 (4)


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Rating: The Good – 95.4
Genre: Horror
Duration: 124 mins
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss

“Summer’s over. You’re the mayor of Shark City.” This 1975 classic is Steven Spielberg’s magnum opus and arguably one of the best directorial achievements from anyone let alone someone who was essentially directing his third film. Even if you have managed not to see it yet, you’re probably familiar with the plot. Chief of Amity Island police, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) believes a large great white shark has staked a claim to the waters off his idyllic island but the township don’t want to know given that their lucrative summer season is about to begin. As the shark attacks continue, Brody teams up with marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and salty fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw) and together they set out to catch and kill the terrifying fish.

Jaws is beautifully filmed full of wide beach and ocean shots and Spielberg uses that masterful technique of tracking the lead character early on in the film as he walks through the town in order to familiarise the audience with the town (a technique his protege Joe Dante would go onto use to great effect in Gremlins and The Burbs). Thus, Amity Island feels welcoming and homely to the viewer and, with that, the horrific intrusion of the shark into this environment feels as alien and scary to the audience as it should to the characters. The tension that Spielberg builds prior to the individual shark attacks would have Hitchcock salivating as the sounds of kids splashing and laughing in the water while radios play somewhere on the beach is slowly replaced by John Williams’ legendary creeping score. In fact, one now infamous scene climaxes with a seemingly effortless “dolly-zoom” shot (dolly-back/zoom-in) that Hitchcock spent years trying to pull off (finally accomplishing it in Vertigo).

The acting is uniformly superb with the great Roy Scheider being as likeable and as watchable as ever. The chemistry between him and the other two leads is terrific and drives the latter half of the film when the story involves nobody but them and the shark. The shots of the shark itself work brilliantly even to this day as Spielberg made up for the static nature of the mechanical prop (named “Bruce”) by intermingling shots of it with footage of actual great whites.

Jaws not only forged a whole new genre of film making but was probably the first major studio blockbuster and so it changed cinema for ever. However, even if that were not the case, it would still remain to this day one of the most entertaining yet technically proficient exercises in movie making. “Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women.”

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