Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Written by Nick McCann
Futility and change. Those are what I can recall sensing at two different points in my life regarding this classic. I may not have been alive in 1975, but I remember feeling a distinct change in my life after watching this film 16 years ago. I feel futile in spilling my guts out for this masterclass picture now. Everyone’s talked about it, the film has been very well documented, analyzed, and is fully ingrained into pop culture. But that’s not going to stop me from dishing out adoration for this iconic Blockbuster.
Based on Peter Benchley’s novel, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation is a pretty simple B-movie at heart. But “Jaws” isn’t mostly about a monster looking to fill its stomach to the brim. Characters and suspense famously come first, driving a story that ebbs and flows seamlessly between drama, humor, adventure, and horror. Tension is built like a sculpture, preying on the fear of the open ocean before striking with hair-raising imagery. For all its scares, the movie contains plenty of laughs, spectacle, and warm feelings. None of these elements feel out of place. They all live in harmony, making the experience feel human and grounded.
That “human” element definitely matters a huge deal with this cast. The main trio of Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw are perhaps the best movie trio ever. Once the film shifts to their ocean-bound shark hunt, their personalities shine with loud clashes and quiet moments of peace between them. It’s a beautiful testament to their brilliant chemistry and well-rounded development. Murray Hamilton and Lorraine Gary also deliver solid turns. Even little side characters in isolated sections are quite entertaining to watch.
The biggest character arguably is John Williams. His score is brilliant at every turn. That theme song characterizes the shark in all its viscerally simple nature. Every bit of music truly is the glue that guides one scene to another. One moment, you’re nervous over a possible shark attack. Another, you’re marveling at the journey this beast takes our heroes on. Williams’ score is well-composed and oozing with character.
The film’s cinematography is also famous. Since the animatronic shark famously malfunctioned a lot of the time, the camera compensates for its presence and still gets the point across splendidly. Coupled with Williams’ music, you’re never safe below the water’s surface. There are many brilliant shots ranging from the underwater POV angles and the 2nd half out on the water. The spectacle of it all gives off a charmingly appealing nautical experience. Not to mention the razor-sharp editing that knows how to gauge every shot and sequence.
Even with all that, the special effects still look pretty well done. While the shark doesn’t follow realistic behavior and is a frame away from giving away the schlock, it’s still a well-constructed animatronic. It moves with personality and the way the shark is revealed in every scene has an effective punch to it. Again, the editing knows exactly how to make this beast as real as possible. Far worse practical monster effects have come out since.
“Jaws” is timeless. What else is there to say? I’ve watched this numerous times over the years and still clench up, laugh, and (admittedly) well up. Spielberg, Williams, Benchley, and everyone involved worked until their fingers bled and made history. “Jaws” remains as powerful as ever, with every watch, I’m brought back to my youth and reminded of just how much impact it’s had on me and so many others since that fateful release day in 1975.