Jaws (1975)

Rating A/12

Length 2Hr 4

Release 26.12.1975

About When a young woman is killed by a shark while skinny-dipping near the New England tourist town of Amity Island, police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close the beaches, but mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) overrules him, fearing that the loss of tourist revenue will cripple the town. Ichthyologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and grizzled ship captain Quint (Robert Shaw) offer to help Brody capture the killer beast, and the trio engage in an epic battle of man vs. nature.

First Thoughts

I remember seeing it for the first time on a midweek school night when it aired on ITV. I very much remember being scared.

I remember it being one of the last films I watched as part of my course in the first year, going to the seminar and being one of two students that showed up.

My last viewing before today was for my brother’s birthday, in which I got us tickets for an outdoor screening in London.

The Good

  • It’s a Visually stunning movie. There’s a reason why it’s on so many university courses. This is the go to film for camera shots, framings and movement. The night time shots appear to be filmed in the day with a tonal shift placed over it, allowing you to get a sense of time and still be able to view the action.

  • Much like Creature From the Black Lagoon, it’s a film of two halves. We open in a New England island town and explore tourism politics and economics. Okay, that sounds a bit boring on paper, but it gives us some epic scenes with the Mayor and the townspeople as they ignore the horror that unfolds. The second half is a much more intimate affair and deals with man’s relationship with sharks. What I love more than anything though, is the fact that you learn something new each time you watch.
  • The dialogue is artful and meaningful. Something that has perhaps been lost over the years is visually rich films. Just because there’s a spectacle, doesn’t mean the audience can do without quotable sound bites.
  • Words are not the only audio that has an impact. Much like many horrors, John Williams has created a score that prepares you for the scares Spielberg has in store. The best example being when Hooper goes into the water and he reached the hole in the boat. The music has already, by this point, conditioned you in a Pavlovian way to expect Bruce to make his appearance. It’s been lampooned and referenced so much now that you don’t need to have seen the film to know the association.
  • The trio of Brody, Hooper and Quint. They normal men who are not ripped, they’re not carefully cast to ensure a particular demographic take their seats. The fact that you can’t really pick one of them out as the MVP says everything about the ensemble.
  • The fear factor will never diminish. The film keeps our ‘monster’ so well hidden that it’s really our imaginations in charge. While perhaps the physical effects of ‘Bruce’ the Shark may not be what they once where (speaking more of the commentary of others) I do feel it’s such a well crafted film that you may just be distracted enough.
  • There are so many scenes that you can pinpoint as being iconic but my favourite will forever be the comparison of scars. It’s everything that you need in a scene; it’s a showcase of character, it’s humour disarms you and right out of nowhere there’s a gut punch from Quint. That monologue! Visually, having Hooper’s out of focus reactions is haunting. The scene is brilliant at that point and ending it on a downward note would have been fine. Spielberg however pulls it out of the macabre with a rendition of ‘show me the way to go home’ and it’s that upward lift that perfects the scene.

The Bad

  • While I do love the ending and the casual conversation that we fade out to, I can’t help but wish we could see a Brody family reunion.

The Ugly

  • The popularity and success of this movie has resulted in so many rip offs of varying quality. For every ‘good fun’ The Meg that reaches the cinema, there’s a Sharknado in a bargain bin or 3am time slot on a random channel. Not to forget the sequels… of course we all wish we could.

Final Thoughts

What can I say, it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen. It’s the reason why Spielberg’s work pre-Minority Report is my favourite of any director.

5 thoughts on “Jaws (1975)”

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