Review of 'Jaws'

jaws.jpg When “Jaws” was released in 1975 it caused a sensation in a film audience that had never seen a horror/thriller film quite like it created by Steven Spielberg who is now, frankly, a living legend and master of the Hollywood blockbuster. With lines around the blocks Jaws went on to break boxoffice records throughout the world but how does it stand up today? Having found my companion has never seen this classic film we fired up Netflix to give it a watch to find that it is just as thrilling today as it was more than 45 years ago.

The small community of Amity Island depends on crowds attracted to it's beaches in order to survive. As the summer begins there are a series of shark attacks that are initially swept under the table by the mayor (Murray Hamilton) despite concerns expressed by sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider) who has enlisted the support of shark expert Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss). After a horrific attack on July 4th the mayor relents, agreeing to hire shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw). Quint, Brody and Hooper set out to put a stop to the menace once and for all but they face a formidable foe…

This is a film of two parts: The first is of a small town in turmoil struggling to deal with the conflict between financial certainty and protecting the people while the second part is an adventure involving three men, a boat and a very big fish. Spielberg here masterfully brings the viewer into the story through the eyes of Brody, horrified by the attacks but shackled by the single-minded mayor. We are never in doubt that Brody will be vindicated and this proves to be the case but rather than gloat Brody is willing to simply help in the hunting down of the killer shark.

Despite the reported difficulties between cast during filming, Dreyfuss, Schneider and Shaw are brilliant together on the screen with an antagonistic chemistry (Hooper against Quint with Brody the reluctant mediator). Perhaps the on-set issues between the actors contributed to these tremendous performances? The three dramatically different characters are forced to work together, reluctantly putting aside their differences simply to survive a challenge with impossible odds. Despite the expertise of Quint even he is left surprised at the power of the shark, and so the three become one.

Much has been said about the mechanical issues of the shark used in the film but Spielberg masterfully cuts the action so that this is only visible if you look for it, otherwise the shark utterly convinces (ok, ok, perhaps the bit where it is chewing on Quint is not so great…). The footage of the mechanical fish is seamlessly spliced with real footage of sharks resulting in a convincing whole. Of course, a lot of the thrills in this film do not even involve the shark on the screen with only the music playing or the evidence of the shark being shown…a masterstroke evident in all the best thrillers (e.g. many films by Hitchcock). Most will be familiar with the Jaws theme by a young John Williams who would go on to work with Spielberg in most of his films. This theme manages to capture horror and dread from subtle to frenzy in one single piece.

Despite it's obvious horror Jaws is a masterpiece of cinema. You would think that a film with the premise of an attacking shark would be full of blood and gore but, surprisingly, there is very little of that on show (though, to be sure, it IS there). This is not a typical “slasher” flick and deserves to be appreciated in it's own right.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2021-10-10

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Studio: Zanuck/Brown Productions

Year: 1975

Length: 124 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure

Other reviewed films by Steven Spielberg: