We all know Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time, but to create a masterpiece such as this as one of his earliest major films is an incredible feat. It’s no surprise that his career flourished after this, given the amount of talent on display.
The story of Jaws follows a sheriff of a small town who learns of a giant shark attacking residents and tourists and then follows his attempts to track and kill it. Sounds simple enough, but in the wrong hands it could easily have been terrible (as evidenced by the 3 sequels). Perhaps the greatest story surrounding this film though is one behind the scenes, involving the shark itself. Spielberg originally wanted the shark to appear more in the film but the animatronic was very unreliable and kept breaking. This meant they had to restrict its screen time so it only appeared occasionally. This was perhaps the greatest mishap in film history. Not seeing the shark fully for a long time and even then not seeing it much gives a real sense of horror and dread every time it is nearby. It heightens the fear, the fear of the unknown, and brings a new layer to the film. It makes the film so much better because the audience are on the same level as the characters in the film, nobody knows what this is and how big it is. And that’s pretty scary.
But it isn’t just a shark in this film. There are people too. And the three leads are all played marvelously, as are most of the supporting characters too. Roy Scheider plays Brody, the town police chief and the only person who is sane enough to realise this shark is a problem. Brody’s gradual paranoia about the water and his near insanity as he desperately tries to convince everyone there is a shark problem and something needs to be done about it. And no one scene shows this better than when he finally sees the shark, face to face. The sheer horror on his face is so believable you almost feel scared for him. Robert Shaw as Quint, the shark hunter, is equally brilliant. His arrogance about the shark situation and his confidence really show. But he really takes it to the other end of the spectrum as he describes a horrific past experience with a shark and the emotion and details are so real you almost feel like you were there. Finally Richard Dreyfuss as a shark expert is yet another different type of character to the other two. He counters them so well, being both excited about his work and more knowledgeable than the two about sharks. His arguments with Quint over the reality of sharks are brilliant character studies about how different people react to the same thing. His quiet, slight awkwardness and general bumbling about nature bring an almost comedy element to a film about a rather dark subject.
But Spielberg is the real star, taking this story to the next level. His craftsmanship is unmatched and he is undeniably one of the greatest of all time, making hit film after hit film. Jaws was just the beginning.
JACK’S SCORE: 5/5