Starring: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Released by: Universal Studios
Synopsis: When the shores of Amity Island are threatened by a Great White Shark police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) is powerless to stop it. He teams up with Ichthyologist Matt Hopper (Richard Dreyfuss) and shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) to try and put an end to the menace once and for all.
Review: If you have ever wondered if movies can have a subconscious effect on its audience then look no further than Jaws. While the film is at heart a horror film it's very different from its predecessors. In the past, the threats were always unreal (monsters, aliens, deformed creatures). In Jaws, the threat the characters face is very real, as in, it could happen in real life! This scared many audiences back when the film was first released, and made them fearful of the ocean; even if in reality the chances of being hit by a car are higher than being the victim of a shark attack.
This effect is achieved thanks to excellent pacing and a sense of horror that is never overplayed. The first example of this is the shark itself. In most modern horror movies, you see the threat the minute the film starts. In Jaws, we don't see the shark until the middle of the film, after a great deal of the movie has gone by. Even if the shark is not seen the threat is there, it's feels real. The sense of horror is further increased by the music. Composed by John Williams, the now iconic Jaws theme song is played only when the shark is nearby. Once you hear the song you know the shark is about to attack. It's one of the most effective uses of theme songs ever seen, and a talent John Williams would later use to greater effect in other film epics.
In the hands of an incapable director Jaws would have been a very boring and slow film. Luckily, we got the talents of Steven Spielberg, who would continue to make great films with excellent plots and characters we care for.
Speaking of characters, not only is the horror well presented the characters are some of the best seen in a horror film. The horror genre is infamous for giving us stock, stereotype characters that are unlikable and unrealistic. In Jaws, however, the characters are quite human. Brody, in particular, is no superman or a highly respected authority figure (people just plain ignored his first warning despite his rank as a chief). He is just an average, New England man and a father figure who is truly concerned about the safety of his friends and family. Matt Hopper is also a great character. Technically the nerdy scientist of the film, Matt, like Brody, is very earnest, offering us some authentic reactions to the development of the shark hunt. Even the archetype characters (like the doubting mayor and the eccentric shark hunters) are given extra depth in their portrayals, a rarity in this kind of film.
The other commendable element in Jaws is that even if it’s a horror movie there are some very calm, even soothing scenes. These quiet scenes exist to give character development, explore the storyline and give us some great shots of the New England coast town. This is a very rare thing in movies of this caliber. It gives the viewer the chance to relax before they are spooked further, the calm before the storm so to speak.
This might be the rare case in which the film is nearly perfect. The only thing to be said against the film is that to modern audiences Jaws may be slow, outdated and even boring. But this isn't the film's fault. Modern audiences have gotten used to horror films which are bloody spectacles with very little emphasis on plot development. Jaws is a pioneering film that proved that you could have a great story and still be bloody brilliant even if the actual threat is unseen for most of the movie.
Rating: 5 filmstrips out of 5
This review is dedicated to Tony Lopez. Not only is he a big fan of this movie, it's his birthday today! Visit his website Lopez Cinemas as well as his YouTube Channel and support this great talent!