The moment Jaws starts and we’re treated to John Williams dramatic and tension laced theme music, I knew I was in for a suspenseful ride. Steven Spielberg’s deceptively simple creature-feature, follows Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), Quint (Robert Shaw), and Matt (Richard Dreyfuss) as they go on a journey to capture a ravenous great white terrorizing Amity island.
Like I said earlier, the music in the movie is immaculate. Whenever the theme starts and we’re treated to the underwater camera shots of people dangling in the water, I felt a sense of dread. The music keeps the tension up and constantly kept me on edge. The best part however, was how varied the sound was during the entire film. The scary parts are filled with tension but there are adventurous and joyous sections that introduce some much needed levity in the movie. This helps keep each scary moment fresh and surprising.
Spielberg went through great lengths to build up each of the characters. Chief Brody is a man of the law who wants to do the right thing but is tied down by the bureaucratic rules of Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton). He’s beholden to the executive’s control and as such innocent people end up suffering. Matt is like the technocratic elite. He’s rich, fully reliant on brand new technology, and is sure of his own thoughts. Quint is a working class man- eccentric and stuck in his ways. The characters and their motivations are written in a complex and nuanced way and allow for multiple readings. As their interactions play out, we can see how their ideological views impact their solutions to the situation. However, the biggest impact of this well written character development, is that it makes the horrifying scenes more emotionally resonant, because I grew to actually enjoy the characters and wanted them to survive.
I was scared for most of the movie. The moment I saw the first gruesome shark kill and the remains of the body, I felt scared every time I saw a character enter the water. Nobody ever feels safe and anytime someone was in the water I immediately started shaking as the all too familiar theme started playing in the background. Because the shark isn’t shown that often it never feels fake. Even though this movie is over 4 decades old it feels realistic and believable. The blood and gore is gruesome and made my stomach churn as I saw it. It’s used sparingly and to great effect.
TLDR: Jaws is a great multi-genre horror film that tackles deep and complex issues through wonderfully written characters and well timed suspenseful scares. Though the movie was over 2 hours long I didn’t feel it’s length and was enthralled for the entirety of the run time.
Final Rating: 10/10. I’m scared of going into the ocean now which means the movie did more than a good job of terrifying me. If you like adventures, thrillers, or creature features then you need to watch this movie.
Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!