Reviews

Jaws

5

It’s time to go back in the water.

With all of the carping that Jaws is culpable for the summer blockbuster, it’s often forgotten that this spectacle of the future is also a product of its time.

OK, so having cop/family man Brody (Roy Scheider) save the day hardly chimed with the counter-culture ideal, but Jaws, for all its thrills and spills, offered a post-Watergate savaging of corrupt authority:

Amity Island’s mayor (Murray Hamilton) protects profits over lives, tossing touristchum to a great white shark.

“I wanted to make a movie that left its mark, not at the box office but on people’s consciousness,” said Spielberg, and it should not be forgotten that he refused Universal’s suggestions of stars Charlton Heston and Jan-Michael Vincent for his leads, fearing they would “corrupt” verisimilitude.

He also insisted on an open-sea shoot, his three mechanical sharks then exhibiting an aversion to salt water that saw the production balloon from 55 to 159 days, the budget from $3.5m to $7m.

“My movie went from William Castle to Alfred Hitchcock,” smirked Spielberg, whose only option was to keep his moody monster beneath the ocean’s surface.

Re-released into cinemas (Blu-ray to follow) with a digital scrub as part of Universal’s centenary  celebrations – but not, thankfully, with any Lucas-like tweaks – Spielberg’s taut, sentiment free sophomore feature again presents itself as a great film full of great moments.

The nighttime skinny dip. The boy on the lilo. The decapitated head. The shark’s wide-mouthed entrance. The Indianapolis speech. The yellow barrels bursting to the surface. “Smile, you son of a bitch…”

But most of all it’s the characters who float this boat, an unfinished script forcing Spielberg, Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss (as oceanographer Matt Hooper) and Robert Shaw (grizzled sea captain Quint) to improvise on set.

From the buzzing island community to the three men and a very large lady, Jaws is a marvel of detailed, economical storytelling. Its heart and hope never spill over, its dread and darkness never depart.

And while it might have been released into 409 theatres on the back of $700,000 of TV advertising to chomp a whopping $470m at the worldwide box office, it should never be held accountable for the likes of Transformers 2, Sucker Punch and Immortals.

Verdict:

Jaws is a perfect blend of set-pieces and story, its formula so hard to capture it’s now near-mythical – filmmakers have been chasing it like Ahab chasing Moby Dick ever since.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • Jareth64

      Jun 13th 2012, 12:02

      5

      This is excellent news! It's still a remarkably good film, primarily due to the performances of Scheider, Dreyfuss and Shaw. I'll be seeing this more than once.

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    • ChrisWootton

      Jun 13th 2012, 12:35

      5

      Perfect, perfect movie. I don't know if it's testament to it's quality or f*****g depressing that in 37 years there hasn't been a film to top it (just my opinion, not meant as an invitation to abuse). Seen this on the big screen a few times now but will definitely be going again.

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    • 2Dglasses

      Jun 13th 2012, 14:37

      5

      Stands up extremely well, massively quotable. The Berg worked out that having characters meant the shark hardly mattered. "I'll find him for 3....but i'll catch him, and kill him, for 10!" (sorry if thats a word or two off)

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    • FBDHaase79

      Jun 15th 2012, 11:59

      I would argue that JAWS is still Spielberg's most perfectly crafted film. Other's have been more famous for his trademarks: his mystical lighting effects, grandiose scoring and unabashed sentimentality; but for sheer storytelling, JAWS has it. I think the reason is simple. It is not that the source material is anything spectacular. It is just that a visionary director like Spielberg does better when he is somewhat reined in by budget, time constraints, and a producer's watchful eye. Otherwise, Spielberg, when left to his own devices, often produces over inflated colossals. Yes, ET is good and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is graphic and of course SCHINDLERS LIST is powerful. But none of them have the streamlined narrative and visual directness and manipulation that is pure cinema that is JAWS. Even Hitchcock's magnum opus PSYCHO was made under much duress and constraint: Paramount didn't want it, so he had to shoot it at Universal with his TV show crew with his B&W cameras and a fairly low budget. Yet despite these challenges, a masterpiece was made. So it is with JAWS.

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