Genre: Drama, Horror
Cast: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw
Synopsis: An island community popular with tourists is terrorised by a man-eating shark that refuses to go away.
If I had to name the one film that started my love affair with movies, it would be this one. I first remember watching this when I was five years old. Jaws was my grandmother’s favourite film and she never missed an opportunity to watch it. She was also of the opinion that a little fear never hurt anyone, even children, and she is therefore directly responsible for my crippling fear of the ocean and sharks.
However, you have to hand it to her: he did have impeccable taste in movies. Jaws is not only one of the best scary movies, but it is also one of the greatest movies ever made. Period. Who can seriously look at this film and deny its excellence? It has everything: killer acting, killer sound, killer cinematography, a killer shark. It is, simply put, a recipe for success.
If there are two thing in this movie that do not get enough credit, it’s the writing and editing. Have any of you read the novel by Peter Benchley? It’s not terrible by any means but it’s trashy as hell. In addition to a subplot involving the mafia, there’s a storyline in which Hooper bangs chief Brody’s wife. The screenwriters (Benchley himself as well as Carl Gottlieb) did a magnificent job at cutting all the unnecessary baggage out of the film and at writing a film that kept the whole thing simple yet sharp.
While the screenwriters laid the foundations, Verna Fields’ masterful editing really gave the film its power. Despite being about a fucking enormous shark, the film does not show much of it…partly because the fake shark looked like a giant turd. Instead, the film toys with the audience’s imagination by revealing very little. We all know what the villain of the movie is so there’s no need to actually show it; our imaginations can fill in the blanks. In fact, it’s scarier if we don’t see the attack coming. It’s as if the shark is a force of nature, killing ruthlessly and then disappearing without trace. It’s no wonder the film won an Oscar for editing.
Credit has to go to the stellar cast but particular kudos should go to the three male leads: Scheider, Dreyfuss, and Shaw. The interesting thing about Jaws is that, while it is a horror film, it’s also a brilliant character study. Here you have these three men, all from different walks of life, facing off against a 25-foot monster and bringing their own flaws to the picture. Chief Brody is the underdog of the picture. He’s uneducated not only about the ways of the island and its inhabitants but also the shark and the ocean. Hooper, on the other hand, is a veritable expert on sharks and the ocean, but he’s naïve and he admires the shark, seeing it as a fascinating specimen. Quint, finally, is the captain Ahab of the picture: obsessed and reckless. The best parts of the film are when these three men interact with one another. It’s when they argue and it’s when they joke.
I could insert my own joke here but I’m not going to. Instead I am going to post this scene from the film. In my opinion, it’s of the greatest scenes in the history of cinema. This, without question, corroborates everything I have said in this post and displays why Jaws is truly one of the greatest films ever made.
- Scary as hell. I still don’t go into the ocean.
- Perfect acting, editing, sound, and cinematography.
- The Indianapolis speech still gives me chills.
- A film that shows the power of an audience’s imagination.
- The fake shark looks shit. I can’t get around that fact but this film was made in the 1970s. I’ve got to cut it some slack.
What else is there to say? This film is about as perfect as a film could possibly be.