Jaws (1975) Directed by Steven Spielberg. With Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Murray Hamilton and Lorraine Gary.
Much has been made in the years since Jaws first took the world by storm, of the overall naffness of the mechanical shark. Watching it back in the year 2012, nearly forty-years since its blockbusting release, it might be surprising how well it stands-up. In a world overrun by computer generated jiggery-pokery, seeing the raw ambition and physicality of an actual on-location effect, is an infinitely more rewarding experience than a weightless, digital manipulation, an all-too present feature of many modern-day movies. Jaws is and always was far more than just a film about a giant shark terrorising a vibrant beach community.
Based on author Peter Benchley’s bestseller, it owes a debt to Hitchcock in the way it implies threat and employs clever camera techniques and music to heighten tension. In collaboration with Benchley, Carl Gottlieb’s superb screenplay is fleshed out beautifully, servicing fine performances including some wonderfully improvised moments that ground the film and give it humanity. Robert Shaw’s Quint, the stubborn old sea-dog. Richard Dreyfuss’ Hooper, the nerdy, enthusiastic science puppy and Roy Scheider’s Brody, the neurotic worrier. Thrown together, they make for a fascinating trio, working together in the thrilling final act showdown.
A Jaws review without mention of John Williams’ legendary musical score is selling you short. As is the case with so many celebrated screen classics, music is a pivotal part of cinema’s enduring power. With a few simple notes, Williams introduces an iconic, unforgettable score. It still shocks, it still surprises and will forever be a classic from a gifted director with the ability to harness his influences to create his own brand of magic. In short, a masterpiece. 5/5