Introduction: It's summer on small, east-coast Amity Island, and a young woman is dead. Since tourism is what fuels the economy, local politicians and businessmen bristle at the conclusion that she was killed by a shark. Using their considerable powers, they basically make sure the reports are falsified to protect the island's livelihood.
Unfortunately, the girl was killed by a shark, and it's chosen Amity Island as its feeding ground. As the death toll rises, Police Chief Brody, shark-hunter Quint and oceanographer Hooper set out to find and kill the man-eater - before it kills them.
My Review: This film has been around for a while. It's a classic - legendary, even. But this is the first time I'd ever seen it, and it made an impression. It stands up surprisingly well after nearly 40 years. Yes, some aspects of the film are dated, but not as many as you'd think, and they don't really detract from its impact.
1. My goodness. Apparently PG-13 didn't exist back then, so don't let the PG rating fool you. This movie is surprisingly gore-tastic.*
2. The level of suspense through much of this film would make Alfred Hitchcock proud. The scene on the beach after they decide not to close the island for swimming is a wonderful example, as is the next beach scene. I was pretty much yelling at Hooper when he got into his dive gear to investigate the boat they found.
3. Because the mechanical shark didn't react well to salt water and couldn't be used much, there is tons of perspective footage with that menacing John Williams score. This is hugely effective.
4. There are some truly golden moments in this screenplay. Pretty much any scene with Hooper in it has great dialogue, and the reminiscing scene in the boat is phenomenal.
5. The overall effect of the film is pretty lasting. I saw it Sunday night and I'm still thinking about it. Not bad.
1. Every time Richard Dreyfuss laughed, I heard Dr. Leo Marvin. Not much of a negative, as it kind of made those bits funnier, but it definitely takes you out of the film for a moment.
2. Some dated elements in the acting, sound and filming. Minor annoyance.
3. The mechanical shark. It looks great when Brody first sees it, and most times when it appears off the boat. Any time it breaches the surface of the water, however, it's pretty obviously fake. Especially the end footage with Quint: Captivating? Yes. Repulsive? Yes. Realistic? No. Not even a little bit.
4. The ending, and I mean the very ending - the denouement, after Hooper resurfaces. It's a little bit 'I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship', but badly done. It felt very rushed.
All in all, despite the fact that everybody says so, I have to admit that Jaws really is a must-see movie, even 40 years on. It's the kind of film that's pretty much mandatory for a movie buff to have in their library. It truly is a classic.
Release date: 1975
Rating: PG (*snort*)
Run time: 124 minutes
Director: Steven Spielberg
My Rating: 4.5 stars (out of five)
*Not really a positive, I guess. Just a general warning.