Quick Hit: Perfect thrill setting, unforgettable characters, and great pacing lead to a wonderful film experience.
Scaring an entire generation out of the water, Jaws also inspired the summer blockbuster season. Jaws also launched Spielberg from being another talented director to being the huge studio name that we have today. Oh, and if anyone else noticed, Jaws also built an entire enterprise of shark films. Why did it have such a lasting reach? Because Spielberg and his cast created a movie that was perfect in so many ways.
I don’t need to go much into the story here – most people know it. But few people realize that Peter Benchley’s novel can take a lot of credit for the story. Carl Gottlieb did a good job cutting out the extra fat on the story – an extramarital affair is one of the things that hit the cutting floor. But, the story is one that is fully efficient in its characterization. There is just very little wasted space in the film, and it means that the story continually hurtles forward. But there are also moments of great characterization, like when all the men are sitting on the boat and swapping stories. It’s a great example of efficient characterization, and more filmmakers should take the opportunity to have movies this way.
It’s also a masterclass in tension, and a way to make a great monster movie (make no mistake – Jaws is about a monster through and through). A lot of this came from necessity with the mechanical sharks consistently breaking down, but some of it was Spielberg realizes that often times what we cannot see is scarier than what we can. He accomplishes this in a variety of ways, from POV shots (from the shark’s POV), or just shots of things floating on the surface showing the shark’s actions, if not necessarily the shark. All of this, coupled with John William’s famous score, means that by the time you actually see “Bruce”, as he was deemed on set, your eyes forgive his flaws and he is terrifying.
I also love the characters in this film. Brody, played by Roy Schneider, is both an amazing character and a great cast – very few could have played him as straight as Schneider does. Robert Shaw comes out as probably the most memorable of all the characters in Quint – he has some of the best lines in the film, after all. But it was an all-around great ensemble, with characters like Mayor Larry Vaughn played the way you would read him – as a small-town huckster who just wants to stay up on top of the power pyramid while he can.
I love Jaws, and think that it’s always worth a revisit for people. I’m giving it a “A+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"