There’s an entire generation of people who will tell you that Jaws made them afraid to go in the ocean. I’ll go one step further than that: after seeing the film for the first time, I was afraid to get in my swimming pool! I’m not an easily scared person; Jaws is just that good.
Based on Peter Benchley’s excellent best-selling novel, Jaws is part action movie, part drama, and part old-fashioned monster movie. Director Steven Spielberg (in his first outing with a sizeable budget) actually follows a fairly cliched plot, particularly popular in the monster flicks of the s, but crafts his film so masterfully that you don’t even notice that this is a story you’ve heard multiple time before. Throw in some expert acting from all parties involved and a landmark score from John Williams, and Jaws becomes an epic adventure that deserves every bit of praise it has ever received.
Populating Spielberg’s film is one of the finest casts he’s ever worked with, Richard Dreyfuss as young scientist Hooper and Robert Shaw as the unforgettable sailor Quint. Were it not for the charisma between these two and Roy Scheider (Chief Brody) and the wonderful sense of character provided by the script (which Benchley co-wrote), JAWS would likely be nothing more than an average monster movie. Instead, the characters in JAWS are alive, each of the three leads likeable in their own distinct ways. If you’re not fully convinced of this fact, all you need to do is watch the scene in which the three compare scars (culminating in Quint’s chilling Indianapolis story and a rousing rendition of ‘Show Me The Way To Go Home’) to answer any doubts.
Spielberg also wisely chose to refrain from showing the shark until the latter half of the movie, allowing suspense to build at a natural pace, and making that moment when we do finally come face-to-face with the -footer all the more incredible. Many feel the shark machine (nicknamed ‘Bruce’ by the cast and crew) looks fake in Jaws, but in truth, with the exception of perhaps one scene, the effects in Jaws are top-notch; impressive enough when they are shown, but restrained enough so not to draw unnecessary attention away from the story.
Jaws is one of the scariest films not just of the s (a decade that itself was overflowing with superb horror films), but of all-time. Spielberg sets up the shocks in the film at such moments that you don’t have a clue what to expect, or when to expect it. One second a scene is calm and peaceful, the next it’s full of action and sudden danger. Accentuating the mood (and mood shifts) is an incredible score by John Williams. Williams and Spielberg have collaborated on dozens of other films, almost always with spectacular results, but Williams’ work for Jaws is exceptional; arguable the most recognized music in film history. Even people who’ve never seen Jaws immediately identify those two low notes repeated in increasingly faster order as a sign of impending doom.
Jaws was an instant success upon its release, creating (for better or for worse) the phenomenon of the summer blockbuster movie as we know it. Today, more than years later, few films that followed in its wake have been able to reach the standard set by JAWS. It’s difficult to make an action film OR horror movie that’s on par with Jaws, let alone a film that can combine the two as seamlessly as Spielberg did in .
Not just a great action movie, not just a great horror movie, Jaws is undoubtedly one of the greatest films ever made, a work were ever element comes together beautifully and makes for a wholly enjoyable experience every time it is viewed. It’s a move that to this day, years later, has never lost its ability to make people afraid to go in the water, and probably never will.