JAWS [1975] movie review

August 24, 2012 · Print This Article

Perhaps there is no other movie like JAWS [1975] I have ever seen for remembering so many small details, like how Brody’s foot slips on the sidewall of the boat, for example.  Perhaps there is no movie in history in general that burns into a viewer’s mind like JAWS.  This is another of Steven Spielberg’s flawless masterpieces.

JAWS is what I call a handcrafted movie.  Every frame Spielberg setup every detail exactly on purpose, from placement of the camera, to framing of the edges of the lenses.  There was no just set the camera down and shoot from the usual.  As the three set off after the shark, they go out framed through a pair of jaws in the window of Quint’s workshop.  There are many very good movies, a few very great ones, but shots like that make a movie a masterpiece utilizing the director’s full skill set.

Long before I became a serious movie watcher as an adult, when thinking of my all-time favorite movies JAWS always came up.  I have no idea how many times I have seen it in the past or when was the last time.  Certainly it has been over twelve years, maybe much longer.  I remembered much, but after this viewing I found many things I had no memory of, like the great way Quint is introduced in the town hall meeting, with him breaking up all the din by scratching his nails on a blackboard.  All I could think was, that was one of the most badass things I have ever seen and one of the best on screen character introductions.  And Quint is an all-time great movie character.

Joined by the police chief Brody and privileged young scientist Hooper on his rickety old sharking boat, the ORCA, the movie because two distinct parts, the build up on the island, and the confrontation on the sea.  The working class vs. rich guy barbs Quint and Hooper are things I did not pick up on as a younger view like I did now, although I never forgot Quint’s line, “I’m not talking about pleasure boating boy, I’m talking about working for a living, I’m talking about sharking!”

The first half of the movie is entirely about not facing facts, not facing fear, pretending it is not there.  The second half of the movie demands from everyone that fear be faced head on.  Quint even smashes the radio to insure the men remain alone out at sea with only the shark for company.

Nothing like facing death to create a bond between men, and taking verbal shots at one another gives way to perhaps the most memorable scene from JAWS, not any of the attacks, but the scene where the men compare scares, ending in a haunting anecdote by Quint of the fate of the USS Indianapolis.  That scene is one of my all-time favorites from any movie, the intimacy of it, the isolation of where they are, the rawness of it.  It is a scene so real it is shocking in its impact.  Movies today cannot put a scene so unsanitzed on screen.  Or should I say sterilized?  Everything on screen in JAWS looks real, used, gritty, the houses, the people, the boat, even the shark.  The shark is real, of course it is only rubber, but it is made from something real nonetheless and that’s to me what makes it so great.

Then of course there is the score.  I always stress how important the score is to a movie, and that no truly iconic movie cannot have a piece of music that is not instantly recognizable.  JAWS has perhaps the most recognizable theme in all of Hollywood history.  Once again it is John Williams who is responsible for creating something so powerful.  It is no stretch to say that the theme from JAWS is itself a character in the movie.

It is amazing how personal of a movie JAWS feels considering it is about a 20, no 25-foot, shark fatally attacking random people.  I believe it feels so personal because of how we follow police chief Brody through the whole movie and pick up Hooper and then Quint along the way, with us the viewer feeling like we are right there with them.

UPDATE:  When Brody is researching sharks looking through some books, there is a quick picture of a shark with a scuba tank in its mouth, the very first foreshadowing of how he would eventually kill the shark before Hooper mentioned on board how dangerous the tanks were.  I had never noticed that before.

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