When it comes to pure combination of thrilling suspense & relentless terror, Jaws ranks as one of the finest and foremost examples that this genre has to offer. The movie that went on to establish the modern Hollywood business model while also becoming the first blockbuster in film history, Jaws helped in catapulting the career of Steven Spielberg to new heights & introduced him to the world in an impressive manner. Widely regarded as one of the greatest & scariest films of all time, Jaws continues to remain highly influential in the suspense-horror genre that, even after four decades of countless imitations, still retains its ability to frighten the viewers with same terror & impact that it had in the 70s.
Set in a fictional Amity Island, the movie opens with one of the scariest moments in cinema history when a girl becomes a menacing Great White Shark’s first victim. Following the incident, the town’s police chief tries to close down the beaches but is overruled by town’s mayor who fears that such an action would result in huge financial losses as the island’s primary source of income comes during the summer tourist season. When more attacks occur as the movie progresses, a bounty is placed on the shark after which the town sheriff, a marine scientist & a local fisherman team up to hunt down the marine monster only to find themselves as the ones being hunted by the Great White.
Produced on a very limited budget, the masterful creativity of director Steven Spielberg is at full display here, one example being his brilliant sense to amplify the tension by not showing the shark on-screen to its viewers but not denying its presence either deserves kudos for how great a trick it turned out to be and led to countless imitations. Also supporting great direction is this film’s tense screenplay, honest performances, great use of camera, superb editing and finally, the biggest contributor in turning Jaws into an absolutely bone-chilling experience… the score by John Williams. Elevating horror to new heights and hugely responsible for the tense mood of this film, Williams makes Jaws twice as effective as it would’ve been without it.
The performances are also pretty impressive. Roy Scheider stars as the town sheriff Brody who after the first shark attack tries to close down the beaches only to find opposition from the mayor of the town. Scheider plays Brody as one of us and his fear & response in the face of danger is something each viewer will be able to identify with. Richard Dreyfuss plays the marine scientist named Hooper and Robert Shaw plays the experienced shark hunter, Quint. Out of the three, it’s Shaw who ends up with most credits for his brilliant work & superb rendition of his character. Intense, target-minded while also demanding authority, Quint turns out to be one hell of a character written for the screen and his famous monologue of the World War II USS Indianapolis sinking remains one of the rare frightening moments in this film that did not feature the shark.
Shooting the film with great emphasis on plot & character development, Spielberg decided against exposing the shark for a major part of the film so that when he finally unleashes it, viewers literally jumped out of their seats. I remember I did. A watershed moment in motion picture history, Jaws remains one of those landmark events that not only changed the psych of many people, who never really went back to the sea, but also Hollywood, for ever. On an overall scale, Jaws is a genuine blockbuster material, a remarkable masterpiece, and a scary fright classic that has very effectively managed to stand the test of time and will continue to do so for a long time.