Released: June 20, 1975. Directed by: Steven Spielberg. Starring: Roy Schneider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss. Runtime: 2h 4 min.
I’ve only seen Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece “Jaws” three times. The first time I watched it was when I was 11 years old at school, weirdly enough. The next time was in August 2012 when I was 17.
For some reason I keep waiting six years between watches as I just watched it again the other day, but with each new viewing – I still feel the suspense, like the suspense of fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw) simply catching something on his hook.
I still feel the thrill of John Williams’ score as we see the shark’s underwater point of view before it attacks. As our fear of the unknown, and the ocean, builds throughout the film, it makes the big reveal of the shark that much more effective.
The film starts with such a memorable beginning of a young woman being killed by a shark while skinny dipping on Amity Island, a New England tourist town.
Despite suggestions that it’s a shark attack from Chief Martin Brody (Roy Schneider), the town’s mayor (Murray Hamilton) doesn’t want to shut down the beach because it’s the Fourth of July.
He doesn’t want a panic on his hands and he doesn’t want to lose money because of this. It has dire consequences. When the Great White shark continues to terrorize the town’s waters, the police chief, marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and ship captain Quint take the fight to it.
One of my favourite things about “Jaws” is that it is so well-paced. The second half of the film is the actual hunt and it doesn’t feel like an hour at all. This is helped by, of course, the film’s tension and its non-stop thrills.
I just love how the trio think they’re being the hunters going out to take down the shark and then it turns the tables on them.
Also helping the pacing is the great acting and chemistry between the three main characters, which makes their banter so natural. I always forget how funny Richard Dreyfuss is as Matt Hooper and the scene on the boat with him and Quint comparing their scars is great. Quint’s monologue about the USS Indianapolis is so compelling. He’s such a character and the songs he sings are amusing.
Chief Brody isn’t as funny as the other two, but he’s perfectly developed as someone who feels guilty about the deaths by the shark even though the fault is really on the Mayor for not shutting down the beach.
I know I’m probably not saying anything new about the film, but it’s because it’s just so great. The film’s shark attacks are just so brutal and they still make me have second thoughts of going into the ocean but it’s why it’s still so effective 43 years later.