The third in an ongoing series of film conversations where I track my daughter’s reaction after she’s been introduced to one of my favorite movies.
What’s the movie about?
Frustrated with municipal bureaucracy, the police chief of a small island community charters a boat for a brief sport fishing adventure. Hilarity ensues.
Why did I pull this particular movie out of the cabinet?
Because it’s one of the greatest films ever made. My real disappointment was not showing this to my daughter when she was in the 6-9 age range, when it’s impactful enough to make you stay on the beach building sandcastles instead of boogie boarding……for 1-2 years tops. Being scared out of the water is a rite of passage for any child.
What did I think of the movie upon revisiting it?
It’s okay……as far as blockbuster masterpieces go.
It’s also a fairly decent sophomore effort from a young director named “Steven Spielberg,” I’ll have to check out his other films. He might be going places.
Why do I like it?
Film historians have already written volumes on the greatness of Jaws, so I’ll just mention a few reasons why I personally love this movie:
The thee leads have great chemistry, but Robert Shaw’s performance as Quint is incredible – the intensity with which he delivers the Indianapolis speech instantly makes it one of the greatest film monologues of all time. His subtler moments are just as captivating, watching him tense up upon seeing the first click of the fishing reel feels hypnotic; Brody may be the final hero but Quint’s mania keeps the viewer off balance, he’s simultaneously threatening, focused, and even compassionate (as when he expresses concern for Hooper’s hands when he’s holding the barrel lines). It’s insane Shaw wasn’t even nominated for an Academy Award.
It’s fun to watch early Spielberg-isms when they appear in the film – the quiet family moment with Roy Scheider folding his hands at the table, the “oner” shots with the camera lingering on a single long take, and of course the epic John Williams score. The ominous main title is one of the most instantly recognizable pieces of music ever created, but personally I love the Barrel Chase (which has also been listed as The Great Chase, or The Great Shark Chase on more recent versions of the soundtrack). It’s an amazing piece of music; slow building tension explodes into high adventure, and then ends on a whimsical note – the barrel chase includes my favorite scene in the film, watching the boat swing around with Quint on the prow as the music swells dramatically gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.
The practical effects are impressive and hold up amazingly well. The very first clear shot of the shark is terrifying, probably the scariest shot in the film:
Watching the white color materialize out of the dark water made me think of Michael Myers coming up behind Laurie Strode in Halloween:
Other effects shots are equally impressive – the shark rolling over during the raft attack, or watching the fin spin through the red blood after the shark is blown up look great.
Upon rewatch, what didn’t work for me?
The Mayor’s wardrobe. I understand he’s pro watersports due to those lucrative tourist dollars, but his nautical themed suit is a bit much:
The only genuine criticism I’ve ever had with the film is when they use real footage during the shark-cage sequence – the scale is off and the look of the shark is inconsistent with their mechanical version (aka “Bruce”). I know it’s coming, but it still takes me out of the film for a few seconds.
Anything else I’d like to add?
Roy Scheider deserves a spot in the improv hall of fame for “you’re gonna’ need a bigger boat.”
The shooting star in the film was a naturally occurring phenomenon, I thought I knew this to be the case, but I had to look it up again after this recent viewing.
Shaw and Dreyfuss did not get along during filming, and Shaw apparently tormented Dreyfuss quite a bit – I think the animosity enhances their performances and gives me new appreciation for Hooper’s childish mocking of Quint.
Am I still happy I chose this to share with my daughter?
Definitely, I just did it too late. I missed the window for true long lasting psychological damage (but I still have The Thing and Halloween in my toolbox).