A must watch cinematic classic; Jaws is as tense and thrilling now as it was when first released.
As part of their week of special events, Showcase Cinema de Lux Southampton held a screening of Steven Spielberg’s classic 1975 thriller Jaws. Although now 42 years old, the film still manages to maintain its scary nature whilst telling a great story with likeable characters.
Jaws follows Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) who, in his first summer as police chief on Amity Island, finds himself tasked with ridding the community of a giant great white shark that is terrorising the local beaches. As the animal’s actions continue to bring despair to the community, Brody seeks the help of marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and old sailor Sam Quint (Robert Shaw) in an attempt to put the shark down.
From the off, the film is able to masterfully build tension. Even if you were to go into this film not knowing about the shark, the opening scene that shows us the point of view of something making its way through the water, coupled with the sinister score, is enough to tell you that something isn’t right. This makes the next scene so much more suspenseful when a young woman is swimming happily in the water. Spielberg is able to give the audience this feeling of impending danger through nothing more than clever camerawork and long build up scenes.
Jaws is often remembered for its iconic theme music, but as excellent as John Williams’ score is, Jaws’ silence is used to great effect. There are long stretches of the movie where no score is used at all, notably just before the second shark attack where the only background noises to be heard are those of the sea and the beach. This lack of a soundtrack is fantastic because it makes the audience feel uncomfortable as, thanks to the earlier set up, they know that the water is not a safe place to be.
One aspect of Jaws that has resolutely stood the test of time is the clever use, or lack of, the shark. We don’t fully see the menacing great white until we get to some of the film’s later confrontations. In fact, for the first three attacks, we either don’t see the shark at all unless it’s just below the surface of the water. This was an excellent choice as, for much of the film, we are fed small details of just how big and abnormal this shark is. This successfully makes the shark feel more like a monster than just a wild animal. It also means that the minimal use of the mechanical shark helps the films stand the test of time in comparison to modern CGI.
Aside from the horror and suspense, Jaws is also a great character story. Brody is an everyday hero and very likeable because of his convictions. The character goes through an arc of wanting to do what’s right, ultimately failing, but then having the determination to redeem himself despite his flaws. Scheider is excellent at portraying Brody as an average guy, instead of some larger than life action hero, who is thrown into this horrible situation and this makes him very relatable throughout.
Brody’s companions, Hooper and Quint, are also well-written characters who are easy to root for; Hooper, an intelligent and eager marine biologist, and Quint, the rough sailor and experienced shark hunter. There’s a scene later in the film where the two, with Brody, tell the stories behind their scars. What starts off as a relatively funny scene turns into a much more serious moment of character development and we are given a greater understanding of who these characters are – it really is fantastic writing.
Overall Jaws is a brilliantly made film that is able to take what on the surface might seem to be a silly concept and turn it into a terrifying cinematic experience. An excellent score, interesting characters and well-built suspense all mean that this Spielberg classic is still a must-watch.
The ultimate week-long cinematic experience at Showcase Cinema de Lux Southampton takes place from 9th-15th June 2017 at Showcase Cinema, Southampton Watermark Centre. Tickets, as well as a full-line up of events can be viewed here.