A huge Great White shark is eating all kinds of swimmers in the waters of Amity Island. It's up to Police Chief Brody (Scheider), sea dog Quint (Shaw) and shark expert Matt (Dreyfuss) to hunt down the man-gobbling machine. Let's go fishing!
"You’re gonna need a bigger boat!" - Chief Brody
Much like half the population of the planet Earth, I was afraid to step into the water after my first viewing of Spielberg’s classic "Jaws". Shit, I was even afraid to take a bath and had to stick to showers for a couple of years. "Jaws" might've been shot in 1975 but it still put the fear of God into me and holds up like a champ today. I recently watched it again and yes, I still jumped at all the right places.
The first half of the flick is my favorite. To me, it’s a genuine horror movie (that opening scene is freakin' classic!). Spielberg holds back on showing us the shark in full body (he sticks to POV and that darn fin) and in consequence, leaves the beast to our imagination. It works. Every time one of those underwater shark POV shots came about, with the Jaws theme building up, I sat on the edge of my seat scared out of my wits. The first half also establishes its characters extensively and competently. Chief Brody, for example, is a man to whom we can all relate, a man’s man, a tough guy with a soft side. I relished seeing him interact with his family, investigate the shark and try to convince the money driven Mayor (Vaughn) to close those damn beaches already. Matt brings in the comic relief with his kooky performance (and is it me or was he flirting with Brody’s wife?) and Quint…well, Quint is Quint…more on him later.
Now the second half of the film is less dark but is still intense in a different way than the first. What started out as a horror film which preys on our fears of the unknown, turns into a “3 men go fishing” type of scenario. The film becomes lighter in tone and it all basically turns into an adventure movie. We get to see the men fraternize (great chemistry going on there between the actors) while at the same time trying to outwit that damn fish (that shark is smarter than half the women that I've dated, incidentally). Now don’t get me wrong, the second half is still extremely enjoyable. I dug seeing the men versus nature scenario, the camaraderie which they shared, the countless boo scares (gets me every time), the breathtaking ocean scenery and the exciting action set pieces. But the flick almost feels like two films.
My real pet peeve with the film is a man that goes by the name of Quint (Shaw). I know I'm in the minority, but from where I was sitting, Shaw overdid it with the role. He bordered on parody. Do all salty dogs constantly sing bad drunken songs (annoying)? Do they all have colorful expressions ("Here's to swimming with bowlegged women”) and sound inarticulate when they speak? For the life of me, I couldn’t understand half the shite that Quint was spitting out. In the process, no matter how many times I listen to Quint’s lengthy submarine/shark attack monologue, I never get the full jist of it. It sounds like a great story! Maybe I should rent the flick in Japanese and hope there’s subtitles so I can finally know what the fuck Quint is rambling about.
But Quint’s “cartoon”-like presence didn’t come close to ruining the magic that is "Jaws". In lesser hands, the flick easily couldn’t have worked. The shark could’ve looked silly ("Jaws: The Revenge" anyone?) and the premise laughed off. But Spielberg's restraint and axis towards suspense versus obviousness, made it all come together. "Jaws" is still a very scary movie today. Why? Because we’ve all been swimming at one time or another, we’ve all been put in that vulnerable situation on some level. Spielberg was smart enough to use that universal fear against us, instead of delivering an “in your face” monster flick. Load up the boat, let's go fishing!
The gore isn’t too explicit but the film was bloodier than I remembered. We get lost of gushing blood when folks get attacked by the shark (poor kid); we get a severed arm, a man chewed by the shark and a severed head.
Roy Scheider (Chief Brody) gives a very sympathetic and natural performance, I loved him. Robert Shaw (Quint) kept on losing me, and on many occasions, I’d ask myself what the dude was talking about? Richard Dreyfuss (Matt) is focused and very funny as the shark expert. Lorraine Gary (Ellen) takes what could’ve been a one-dimensional part and injects realism and depth into it. Murray Hamilton (Mayor Vaughn) plays the money-motivated a-hole very well.
A girl skinny dips in the opening sequence of the film, but damn I didn’t pick up anything, it was too dark. Get your night vision goggles.
In the first hour of the film, Spielberg is at his flashiest. We get some really groovy shots, beautiful scenery (loved the sparkling water at night) and effective shark POV shots. Spielberg lightens up in the second half on the stylish shots but "ups" the excitement of the picture. Overall, a very solid job.
The now-immortalized John Williams score is simple and works like a charm. On many occasions, the score substitutes for the shark. The score is its presence. Solid.
"Jaws" is a unique celluloid treat that has yet to be equaled today by the countless imitators or sequels. The script is tight, the acting is on, the directing effective, the score incredible and the pace is even. It’s an all-out thrill ride from beginning to end. I still don’t take baths solo because of this flick…now if I’m with two bi-sexual female porn stars…that’s another story. Sure, beats my rubber ducky.
The mechanical shark (named Bruce) spent most of the movie not working, and Spielberg had no choice but to use the camera as the "shark" via POVs.