Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss
Director: Steven Spielberg
Running Time: 124 mins
Jaws is an American film about the island resort town of Amity, which is terrorised by a gigantic great white shark at the height of its summer season, leaving only a trio of men to venture out into the open ocean to kill it and restore peace to the seaside.
Well, this is of course one of the absolute classic of cinema, and there’s no way that it disappoints. It’s got a fun blockbuster story that’s been so influential over the years, along with great characters and performances, exciting tension and suspense and that incredible score.
There’s really no other place to start with this film than the score. John Williams has always been a genius when it comes to music for the big screen, but there’s nothing quite as effective, powerful and iconic as what you have here. The excellently eerie noise that starts off a scene in the most unsettling way possible is replaced with the intense and pounding beats that allude to the shark’s movement to attack, and there’s really nothing quite like it when you hear this music put to the pictures in this film, and it all comes together to make for some unbelievably tense and scary sequences.
What also massively helps to heighten that sense of tension throughout the whole film is Steven Spielberg’s brilliant direction. 1971’s Duel was a testament to how good Spielberg can be with a camera in the most simple of situations, but his work in this film is on another level. Whether it’s the iconic point-of-view shot from the shark’s perspective, or the ingeniously loose and vague looks at the open sea, there’s always something that he does to really add to that excitement and uneasiness at every point possible here.
Along with those incredible technical achievements, there’s a whole lot more in the story to praise. This was, of course, the first ever summer blockbuster, and it has a plot to fit perfectly with that image. It’s nothing too silly, being an intense horror-thriller, but it’s never too serious, scary or gruesome to lose its appeal as an exciting and entertaining movie, and it’s that balance that makes this such a successfully fun and thrilling film to watch.
The film is split into two acts, which have their own pros and cons. The first act is both interesting and exciting, as it looks at the impact of the shark’s attacks on the resort of Amity, without ever really delving into seeing the shark itself, however it does drag at times and may be a little overdeveloped in hindsight with regards to the direction that the story takes in its second act.
That second act is where this trio venture out into open water to find the shark, and whilst this loses the more intriguing qualities of the first hour or so, you get a whole lot more thrills and spills as the battle between the men and the shark heats up. What’s more is that this part of the story revolves around the three individual characters a lot more, and whilst it takes a little bit of time to get into that through their very slow conversations from time to time, it works an absolute treat when it comes to the actual action, because as a viewer, you really care for them and fear for them in times of peril.
Overall, this gets an 8.4, due to its excellent direction and score, as well as its brilliant plot that not only intrigues, but also excites to the highest degree.