I can think of no better movie to enhance your enjoyment of a beach vacation than Jaws. There’s nothing quite like scenes of happy sailors, paddling surfers, children splashing in the shallows, and a hungry 25 ft. great white shark prowling the shoreline. Oh yes, nothing will get you more in the mood for a day at the beach than the classic, the iconic, the traumatizing Jaws.
It’s the Fourth of July, the start of a beautiful summer, and swimmers are flocking to the beach in droves. The residents of Amity Island welcome the hot weather with open arms – until a string of shark attacks threaten their precious tourist season. Long suffering police chief, Brody (Roy Scheider), takes the shark’s appearance as seriously as possible and tries to close the beaches to swimming. Unfortunately the town’s profit-focused mayor gives poor Brody nothing but grief and denials. Brody eventually hustles together a team including shark researcher, Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and veteran fisherman, Quint (Robert Shaw), and sets out to take care of the raging menace before the shark devours Amity’s worry-free reputation.
Jaws is one movie that never gets old. It succeeds in reminding me that open water is a dangerous place where just about anything can lurk beneath your bobbing limbs – even if your habitual swimming hole is a freshwater lake. Don’t judge: murky water is murky water, and nightmares are real. Steven Spielberg’s giant shark will nibble away at your adventurous spirit, daring you to dip your toe in a large body of water ever again. Coming straight out of 1975, Jaws happily trades any knowledge of CGI or skin cancer for animatronics and tanning oil. We also get a full view of 1970s swimwear fashion. In all its short, colourful glory. Not that any of this is a bad thing. Jaws feels like a snapshot in time, and Spielberg’s direction of the boat, the men, and the shark eliminate the need for fancy computer graphics. Yes the fish looks a little fake when it pops out of the water, but the reaction of the guys on the boat doubly makes up for the rubbery texture of their sworn enemy.
Of course, in the eyes of Fisherman Quint, everything is a sworn enemy. While the roles of Brody and Hooper are beautifully cast, Quint steals my heart for being so positively perfect. He’s haunting, damaged, senile, a little drunk, and in sore need of subtitles. His rambling monologues are a great part of what makes Jaws a classic. Granted, the film is also stuffed with fabulous one-liners that contribute to its memorability, such as: “There’s something else out there,” “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” and my personal favourite, “Smile, you son of a b-” -ang! Accompanying this brilliant writing is the two-note soundtrack you will never forget. The one your sibling slowly chants as they chase you around the house. Thanks to this memorable score by John Williams you are well warned when the ripples in the water mean a false alarm (lack of music) or when someone’s about to lose a foot (da-dum… da-dum).
Spielberg’s trademark lies somewhere among captivating story lines, flawed but relatable characters, and giant predators casually leaving their teeth behind. It’s a wonder the beasts have any chompers left when the heroes finally say hello to their gaping mouths. I wouldn’t say Jaws is a film that’s fun for the whole family, although it is a fascinating movie to watch around the Fourth of July. But it is indisputably a classic, a 9/10, and a terrible thing to see during your relaxing beach vacation.
Jaws trailer. “See it before you go swimming.”