Note: This review will contain spoilers. If you have not seen the movie by now, stop reading and see it.
Sometimes, I can remember where I was when I first saw a movie. At the age of seven or so, I was watching TV, and two guys were out fishing with a big slab of meat on a chain hook. They threw it out to sea. Moments later, something big took not only the meat, but half the dock and one of the men with them. Later on, I would ask my parents to see Jaws from the beginning.
At that point in my life, I never really knew what a shark actually looked like, but I was learning what a shark could do. I watched the film, eagerly waiting until I could see the shark. Well, right after Chief Brody’s (Roy Scheider) eldest son Michael is confronted by the shark, I had to go some where, and did not get to see the shark at a later date.
Only years later would I learn how great a tactic this was. The main factor of this masterpiece of celluloid is not showing the shark in flesh, but the shark’s actions and the results of those actions.
Another key in the film is the music, supplied by the legend John Williams. This film shot him to the status of icon in movie music (he would later reach another level of excellence two years later when he composed Star Wars). The theme of Jaws is one of the most recognizable, simple, and terrifying of all movie scores (second only to that of Psycho).
The film also has some outstanding editing by Verna Fields (who won one of the film’s three Oscars; the others were Best Sound and Score). Some of the best examples are during the action scenes at sea, but also the ones of the chief looking out on the beach in search of the shark before the second shark death.
There are also moments when Spielberg plays with our minds. Consider the scene I just mentioned. It starts off with a rather overweight lady going out to the ocean. We then see (a rather skinny) Alex Kinter leaving the ocean. We may not admit it, but we think “Surely, a shark would go for an overweight person instead of a skinny little boy?” How wrong we are!
The acting in the film is, in my mind, overlooked. Everyone is perfect in their roles, but the scene stealer to me is Robert Shaw as Quint. His monologue is easily the best scene in the film. It plays in your mind as he tells it, and there is not a hint of acting so much as recalling a horrible moment in this man’s life. It is beyond chilling stuff.
Parents, it should be noted that while this film is PG, it came out before the PG-13 rating, which is probably what it would get. It is possibly the most violent PG movie ever (along with another Spielberg classic, Raiders of the Lost Ark). When I saw the film, I admit I was a tad surprised to see some young kids there, but I did not hear a lot of kids screaming wanting to go home. It is a good type of scary film (though there is a little nudity at the beginning, it is obscured from shadowing.) This a film that, if I have kids, I will be blessed to show it to them (I will probably wait till maybe age 9 or so).
Jaws is one film you can’t live life without seeing.
Overall: Five Stars *****