Directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1975, Jaws is a groundbreaking film which is widely considered as the movie which created summer blockbusters.
Amity Island is a town by the ocean whose economy revolves around tourism. One night, a woman goes swimming and is yanked underwater, never to return. When pieces of her body are found, Police Chief Brody suspects an unusually brutal shark attack. However, the mayor refuses to put the town on shark alert, not to hurt the town’s lucrative summer season. When the shark attacks more people, the mayor asks local fishermen to catch the killer creature. Satisfied with the shark they eventually kill, they think their problem is solved. But when one more fatality occurs, Chief Brody, a marine scientist and a local fisherman embark on “The Orca” to face the enemy.
Jaws is more than a movie, it is a piece of cinema history. Its impact on pop culture is undeniable : not only did it spun every type of merchandising you can imagine, it also created what is almost a genre in itself : Jaws rip-offs (the most famous one being Piranha, directed by Joe Dante).
The film has scared people out of the water for decades and the reason is not its gruesome nature (it is quite tamed and not extremely gory) but the way Steven Spielberg brilliantly uses our primal fear of the unknown. Jaws is the perfect example why showing the monster is not required to created fear (quite the contrary in this case). Though emanating from technical difficulties, Spielberg uses a variety of techniques and shots to hide the shark, thus increasing the menace. Not seeing Bruce (the shark was named after one of Steven Spielberg’s lawyers) makes him much scarier.
The underwater shots are incredible and the opening sequence is just sublime. The film starts in almost complete silence with the endless sea before our eyes. Suddenly, the shark attacks Chrissie. It is sudden, brutal and very effective at establishing the tension that will increase throughout the film.
The famous soundtrack is, of course, iconic. It gets under your skin and helps creating the tension and atmosphere of Jaws.
There are several scenes that stand out. I particularly enjoy the reveal of the shark and Chief Brody’s reaction to it. This scene doesn’t happen too soon and is simply perfect. Another scene that is very well composed is the father and son scene in which the little boy mimics his dad, creating a very touching moment.
There is not much to say about Jaws that hasn’t been said before. It absolutely deserves its cult status and is a movie to watch every summer. There’s only one last thing to say : that’s a bad hat, Harry !