Jaws

1975, Movie, PG, 124 mins

Review

JAWS
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A looming, terrifying catch of the day, JAWS was the summer mega-hit that established Steven Spielberg. This is the most cynically manipulative movie he's ever made (although it's deepened by some telling points about the tensions of contemporary masculinity), and it must be seen for its unexpected editing, driving score, and careful build toward shock images so big they feel like they're jumping into your lap.

An East Coast resort, Amity Island, is plagued by attacks on swimmers by a 28-foot great white shark. Although the mayor (Murray Hamilton) would like to keep the whole thing quiet--he doesn't want to ruin the summer tourist season--the brutal attacks soon cannot be ignored, so police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and grizzled old shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) go after the monstrous creature, winding up in a desperate fight for their lives.

The film that put Steven Spielberg on the cinematic map, JAWS was phenomenally successful at the box office and seemed to tap into a universal fear of what lies beneath the sea. The director's vision of Moby Dick, with Quint as Ahab, finally digs a grave for macho, exposing it as a foolhardy joke; it's high time. Spielberg's direction turns the material into a nerve-jangling tour de force. From the outrageously frightening opening--in which a beautiful young woman skinny-dipping in the moonlight is devoured by the unseen shark--to the claustrophobic climax aboard Quint's fishing boat, Spielberg has us in his grip and rarely lets go (although the film does bog down momentarily in some soap-opera scenes of Brody's family life).

Because the film tapped into a common fear and played on it so skillfully, it was a worldwide hit and entered international popular culture. JAWS has been endlessly parodied by comedians and filmmakers alike, and John Williams's effective score has now become a cliche. Three vastly inferior sequels followed. Now, everybody into the pool! leave a comment

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