JAWS (1975) 

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Roy Scheider
Richard Dreyfus
Robert Shaw
Lorraine Gary
Murray Hamilton
Chris Rebello
Carl Gottleib
Jeffrey Kramer
Susan Backlinie

Steven Spielberg




Time: 124 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama/Horror/Suspense

Won Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Original Score. Nomination for Best Picture.

It's fairly common knowledge now that the reason the audience rarely ever sees the shark in JAWS is because they could never get the mechanical creature to actually work. Instead of being hampered by this problem, Spielberg used it to his advantage to create one of the best horror movies ever. This is a powerful drama that draws you in and refuses to let go. I've seen it more times than I can count and every time, no matter where I come in, I'm compelled to watch it to the end. JAWS is not your typical horror movie (where nubile young teens are slashed to death by a crazed lunatic), but it scared enough people to keep them out of the ocean for years afterwards and that's what makes it a great movie.

The plot is simple. Shark gets mad and starts eating people. Because it's the height of the summer season, the town refuses to close the beach. Shark eats more people. Chief of Police hires crazy old alcoholic fisherman to kill shark. Chief, fisherman and marine biologist chase shark. Almost get eaten by shark. Eventually they the kill shark, saving lives and the town from an ugly summer recession. Tourist season continues.

What makes this film great are the performances of Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfus and Robert Shaw (though playing an alcoholic wasn't a big stretch for him by this time). Scheider plays Chief Brody the local law enforcement officer whose job is to keep people safe on the beaches even though he's terrified of the ocean. It's his courage and conviction that are the heart of the film. He must put aside his own fears for the well-being of the community. Nobody plays conflicted better than Scheider. In the course of the film, he not only conquers the shark, but his own demons as well. Without this character arc, this film could well have been just like its hideous sequels Jaws 2-4.

"I'm not going to waste my time arguing with a man who's lining up to be a hot lunch."

Brody hates to trust his life to Quint (Shaw), a sailor who's seen better days, but he knows there's no one better to catch this shark. Quint is a man afraid of nothing, having faced his demons long ago in the open waters during World War II. He's just doing it for the money. What he finds is friendship and redemption. Dreyfus plays Hooper, a know-it-all marine scientist, who gets the education and scare of a lifetime while on the chase. These three very different men, who initially hearitly dislike each other, find respect for one another on their mission. The nighttime scene on the boat where they tell the stories of their scars and bond like true men is one the most well-acted and powerful pieces of film ever captured.

Though more drama than horror movie, this film has some genuine scares that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat. People stayed out of the ocean for a good reason. How they end up killing the shark is a bit hokey and unbelievable (and has been debunked by the Mythbusters), but it's a much more satisfying ending than most horror movies deliver these days. This was Spielberg's first big movie and is still one of his better ones. When he concentrates on character and avoids sentimentality, he's one of the best directors ever. If you haven't seen this film, you should be ashamed of yourself. It's truly one of cinema's best. This is what going to the movies is all about.

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