I actually only just watched this recently, but have put off reviewing it for a very long time because I just don’t think I can give it the proper justice. I consider myself pretty good with words, but man, Jaws is just something else. It’s, well it’s a masterpiece really, a benchmark of film that does things directors in modern times are still trying to understand.
At its core, Jaws is a horror film, but to classify it as such is an understatement. Jaws is so much more than a mere horror flick, partially because the actual monster of the film doesn’t even make an appearance until almost the final climax. Not many films dare to do that anymore, but Jaws did, and it does it better than anyone ever has, and probably ever will.
What makes this movie so freaking successful is its mastery of suspense. I’m not normally the squeamish type, but Jaws messed with me in a way few movies have. It gets at you from the very first scene, squirming under your skin and leaving you breathless just moments after you start the movie. It doesn’t wallow in its terror though, opting instead to let it simmer, which just intensifies the whole experience into something completely unforgettable.
But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to the beginning again. Jaws, despite starring a giant shark, is a very human story, and its three main protagonists are some of the most developed, entertaining individuals you’ll find in any of Spielberg’s films. They’re wonderfully cast, directed, and written, and pretty much single-handedly carry the movie forward.
Sheriff Martin Brody is very protective of his hometown Amity, going through his daily routine with care for detail and attention to the people he cares about. He’s not overly outgoing or even brave, but he’s honest and thoughtful, which immediately makes him a likable lead in a film very much about fear. Oh, and his deathly fear of water just makes him that much better.
However, when a shark starts attacking the local beach, and the bodies start puling up, Amity Island becomes a deathtrap for anyone caught in the water. And that includes the over-populated beaches. With no one else prepared to do anything, Brody teams up with Matt Hooper, a scientist from the Oceanographic Institute, and Quint, a local, somewhat crazy fisherman, to put an end to this deadly shark.
What follows is some of the most thrilling, truly terrifying cinema we’ve ever had. Spielberg is a genius behind the camera, simple as that. He’s at the top of his game with Jaws, and I truly wish he would do more projects like this in recent days. He is a master of directing, and he knows exactly how to set up and play out a scene in the best possible way.
He imbues every shot, every scene, really, with as much life as possible, and he maneuvers through the albeit simple plot with such skill and attention to detail that you have no choice but to sit back and let him carry you. This is by far one of his best works, and should still stand as reference work for anyone new to film.
There’s really not much I can say about this movie that is anything but positive. It just does so many things right, that it’s nearly impossible to find fault in it. It builds suspense at the perfect pace, all leading up to a beautifully destructive crescendo that is sure to get under your nerves.
The climax is a special kind of terror, taking everything that takes place before it and creating a tense, nail-biting experience that seems to never end. But still Spielberg remains in complete control, easing the viewer into the delusion of safety before throwing out the next big twist that will most likely make you scream. I know it did for me.
If I had anything not wholly positive to say about his film, it would be its ending. Not the climax, which I’ve already said is perfect, but the final moments themselves. After the nail-biting ride that you just experienced, the movie seems to close on a somewhat abrupt note. All the loose ends are tied up, but the sense of victory is cut a little short by the credits.
But still, this is me trying to find a flaw, and that can hardly count as anything other than nitpicking. Because, in reality, I just didn’t want it to end. Once Jaws gets its teeth into you, there is no letting go, and you will be absolutely glued to the screen until the credits finally do roll, and you’re left with nothing but your own lingering feelings.
Jaws is a special kind of movie, one that deserves its fame and respect for more than one reason. It’s wonderfully acted and directed, and the way it builds up to its climax is a work of art achieved by only a select few. It’s one of Spielberg’s best films, and I really do hope that it stays timeless for a long, long time.