Jaws Film Review

By: Brianna Studer

 

Steven Spielberg truly out-did himself by directing 124 minutes of shock and horror in Jaws.  Off the coast of New England, a tiny, beautiful community called Amity Island is terrorized by a 25-foot, 3-ton, Great White shark who craves the taste of human flesh.  Part-time police chief Brody, played by Roy Scheider, moves from a city life into this small beach resort community soon before the trauma struck the sand.  The film immediately emits the scare factor when a shark attacks and kills a girl swimming under the moonlight.  Spielberg doesn’t spare any gore in this scene, and it sets the tone for the rest of the film to be full of suspense and blood.  Although her body is soon found on the beach, the city’s leaders are not keen to shutting down the beach.

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Mayor Vaughn, played by Murray Hamilton, continues to pretend that there is no immediate danger to the community in the surrounding water because the town’s economy is entirely dependent on its ability to attract tourists to its beaches.  This is truly just a lawsuit waiting to happen.  After more deaths, and a reward set for the death of this terrifying fish, Mayor Vaughn and Brody finally invest in the help of an oceanographer named Hooper, played by Richard Dreyfuss.  People travel from across the country to get their hands on the shark and the accompanying reward money, but to no avail.

The only fisherman who has the capability to hunt and kill this massive shark is Quint, an ex-navy sailor with a long hatred of sharks.  In this way, Quint reminded me of Moby Dick when the sea captain becomes obsessed with the ominous whale.  There’s a specific scene that Quint completely loses his mind while hunting the shark. A line by Quint speaks for itself by saying: “The thing about a shark, he’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes after you, he doesn’t seem to be living until he bites you, and those black eyes roll over white.”  This sticks with the audience and is such a great vivid description of what some of these victims have gone through, and what everyone is so scared of. Spielberg uses many other tricks besides dialogue that implants horror and suspense into the community.  The Great White is known to be swimming by whenever the shark theme song by John Williams plays, without having to see the monster. Spielberg also portrays the invisible Great White by having it followed by floating objects, allowing the beast to stay hidden. He also shot some of the attacks in the shark’s point of view which was a brand-new way of looking at it to the audience, giving yet another aspect to the film.

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Jaws is a real piece of art. Spielberg makes the audience hungry for more bloody shark scenes while stalling as they get to know the characters.  He ingeniously breaks scary scenes with periods of calm, allowing the audience to relax, so that they can reach the ultimate fright yet again.  The Great White’s attacks were also at random, exposing the question of who was to die next with no way to save them, creating a truly terrified community.  Spielberg directs a true nail biter here. By the end, the audience, hopefully not including children, might be too scared to enter the water on their next vacation to the beach.  However, I find it comforting that statistically, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning or injured by your own toilet than to be attacked by a shark.

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