Customer Review

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fins can only get better, 13 May 2005
This review is from: Jaws [DVD] [1976] (DVD)
One day early in 1976, I discovered a school friend reading a book which he told me was about people on an island being terrorised by a killer shark. I thought it was a hysterical idea and laughed my head off, but just a few short months later, the posters appeared everywhere, depicting the conical, toothsome head propelling towards a hapless surface swimmer and proclaiming "She was the first". JAWS had arrived, and like everyone else I was queuing round the block, desperate to see what has become one of the most famous, talked about, and influential movies of our time.

The story is well known, probably even by people who weren't born when the film came out. One man, police chief Brody (Roy Scheider) against a killer shark and the fictitious community of Amity Island, a town that won't face the truth about the monster in its midst. Brody is joined in his escapade by oceanographer Hooper, played by Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw in a career-topping performance as rough-diamond shark hunter Quint, the man with a liking for scraping his fingernails down blackboards and comparing war-wounds. All three are excellent, cutting tremendously engaging characters and helping the storyline to flow seamlessly. In the early scenes the shark itself is portrayed largely as an unseen menace, picking off its victims and teasing the audience with clever camera angles and of course John Williams' legendary soundtrack. The suspense builds brilliantly, but there are some humorous moments as well. and the child actors create some entertaining diversion - kids playing with a fake shark fin cause widespread panic at the beach. A poignant interaction between Brody and his son at the dinner table - all scenes of vintage Spielberg.

But it's in the second half, essentially a three-hander between Scheider, Dreyfuss and Shaw, when the movie really comes into it's own. The claustrophobic isolation of Quint's creaky fishing boat sets the scene for a final stand off between man and man-eater. The three make an ill-fitting team and it's clear from the outset who's going to come off worse. When the final pay-off comes, it's every bit the result of two hours of carefully racked-up tension, and enough to leave the viewer heaving a sigh of relief when it's over.

The big question is of course, more than 30 years on, is JAWS still a great film? And to me the answer will always be a resounding YES!! It stands up to repeated viewing and created a style much imitated even today. Maybe by today's standards the model shark (nicknamed "Bruce" by the film makers) seems phoney, and the movie certainly fell victim to sequel-syndrome in the years that followed, but these are minor flaws in a work of exceptional merit. If you've never caught it before, whatever you do, don't miss this classic.
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