A shark terrorises a small town on an island in summer season. Three men head out to sea to kill it.
I feel like I’ve seen almost all of Spielberg’s films except the ones people constantly recommend: Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws. Only the former remains now, what a momentous occasion.
Jaws happens to be one of those films that lives up to its hype. I can’t use the word ‘classic’ on a film I’ve only seen once, but it has so many well executed scenes and memorable elements that I can see how it gets that title.
The casting is perfect. Roy Scheider plays the uptight local cop battling with the local mayor who doesn’t want his beach closed despite an initial shark attack. Richard Dreyfuss is the nerdy but surprisingly weathered shark expert. Robert Shaw is the haggard old drunk sea dog who owns the boat and is a seasoned shark hunter.
The three click together like a puzzle, and they each take their characters in really interesting places despite the limited concept of the script. The supporting cast are also very strong. The mayor is annoying and obviously wrong but constantly shows hesitation, making him plausible.
The soundtrack obviously fits the bill and is known to people who haven’t seen the film. It’s some of John Williams’ best work, if anything because it’s so far removed from everything else he is known for, yet it’s still fantastic.
The script is tight, the cinematography is effective, the décor is spot on, but really what ties it all together is Spielberg. You can feel his hand at work and it’s clearly him that makes Jaws a cut above. All the components of the film are brilliant, but Spielberg is talented enough to make them work in harmony.
He’s got his hands on the dials, turning the heat up and down at the right times. Jaws is scary when it needs to be, tense when it needs to be, and funny when it needs to be; no more. It’s incredibly entertaining and a fine example of the perfect blockbuster.