Jaws ★★★★★

What can you say about Jaws? Everyone has seen it, everyone has seen it multiple times. Everyone agrees that it is great. It is probably the most beloved of the big budget blockbuster films (apart from maybe Die Hard, which is obscenely overrated). What struck me on this viewing, the first time I have watched the whole film in a reasonably long time, is how it is made up of an almost endless number of brilliant small moments. It is a film of small moments. Obviously there are the celebrated small moments, like Roy Scheider and his son mimicking his movements; but it is the less talked about moments that make Jaws so captivating. Hooper’s dying laugh when Quint mentions the USS Indianapolis; Brody lifting his shirt to look at his scar then lowering it; the background camera zoom when Scheider is sitting on the beach; Richard Dreyfus making faces at Robert Shaw; the sign in the background with the speech bubble of “Help! Shark!!!”. As I say, it is an endless series of great small moments; probably my favourite being Roy Scheider filling the pint glass with wine, then the subsequent interaction with Dreyfus and his wine glass. It is a tiny moment, but it brings character to a film that could have just been spectacle.

It is the character’s that keeps you coming back, and for that you have to applaud the three lead actors. I would say that currently it is Robert Shaw who is the most beloved of the cast, his nail-scraping, bellowing and singing performance is brilliantly surface, while he nails the tension of the film with his expertly delivered monologue. A monologue that has not aged a day, it is the highpoint of the film, without any doubt. However, I tend to think the best performance in the film (or at least the performance I like the most) is from Roy Scheider. Scheider is one of the great actors of the 1970s, with this The French Connection, The Seven-Ups, Klute, Sorceror and All that Jazz, and he made the most of his decade. His performance in Jaws is one of tremendous subtlety, he never overplays a scene, he never overacts a moment, he even takes a slap resignedly. It is a masterclass. I think someone should create an art project (Turner Prize winning, I have no doubt) and focus in on Scheider’s face in Jaws, wherever possible and remove the rest of the action and sound, I still think it would be the best film the year. This is not to forget Richard Dreyfus either, who leavens proceedings with his wit, and laugh. Richard Dreyfus has one of the all-time great laughs, and he deploys it to great effect in Jaws. It is a testament to Steven Spielberg that he was not over-awed by the performers he had on screen, and manages to steal a number of scenes himself. His underwater photography, the tidal nature of the tension all point to how fully formed he was as a director, even this early in his career. Jaws is wonderfully directed, perfectly paced. Having said all that, I think we should all be in agreement that John Williams, and his score, more symphonic than history would allow it, is the real star of the show and at least 99% of the reason why Jaws is as good as it is. What can you say about Jaws? Apparently quite a bit.

Block or Report

Wilson liked these reviews