Film Review: Jaws

Updated on January 18, 2018
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Review written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.

Background

In 1975, Steven Spielberg released Jaws, based on the 1974 novel of the same name by Peter Benchley. Starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb, Jeffrey Kramer, Susan Backlinie, and Peter Benchley, the film grossed $470.7 million at the box office.

Synopsis

A giant great white shark starts killing swimmers near the New England resort community of Amity Island and the mayor tries to keep it quiet. Police Chief Brody investigates anyway, earning the support of professional shark hunter Quint and marine biologist Hooper.

Review

The film considered to be the first summer blockbuster, Jaws is a fantastic film, presenting a simple yet relatable story. There isn’t a lot of complexity to be found in a giant shark terrorizing an island community. However, it takes the base fears humans have of the unknown and feeds on them. People on the island going for a swim have been eaten by something no one else has seen and the mayor, who citizens believe has their best interests in mind, is only concerned with Amity Island’s bottom line until an attack during the busiest day of the year. It takes humanity’s fear of the unknown along with the desire to trust someone in a position of authority and plays with them while inverting the notion of humans being on top of the food chain.

This is all combined with the atmosphere the film has. Rather than outright showing the shark from the beginning, the viewer only sees what is happening to its victims. The best example of this is in the very first scene of the film, showing Chrissie Watkins running into the ocean for a swim. At first it shows her treading water before something tugs at her. Within moments it thrashes her around, pulling her under and her remains are shown in a later scene. It provides a sense of dread, knowing whatever was able to do that to Watkins is still out in the water. Further, showing mere glimpses of the shark until the final act helps to maintain the sense of dread. Until the moment Brody gets a good look at it, the audience is unaware of how large it is, only knowing it’s lurking somewhere and could strike at any moment. The music accompanying the shark helps to keep the atmosphere alive as well. Any time it starts, it’s a given the shark is going to show up, except for the one surprising time it showed up without the music. It’s a great subversion of expectations.

Additionally, the film has good cinematography. The moment Brody realizes the shark has shown up while people are having fun in the water is a notable scene. It makes good use of the dolly zoom to draw attention to Brody having his fears affirmed. The shot in the beginning of the film where the viewer sees Watkins’ legs from the point of view of the shark is great, too. It succeeds in telling the viewer something is about to happen to this girl to kick off the story and the audience is looking through the eyes of whatever is about to do it.

Nevertheless, the most fascinating aspect to this film might be the story behind it. The film had everything going against it, including Spielberg who only had one theatrical feature film to his name at the time and it wasn’t very well received. It was over budget, the filmmakers went over their allowed time and the practical effects barely worked. Still, it succeeded to be the highest grossing film at the time, initiated a new era of filmmaking and became one of the most iconic films of all time.

5 stars for Jaws

Awards & Recognitions

bold indicates reception of award/recognition

Academy Awards

  • Best Sound
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Music, Original Dramatic Score
  • Best Picture

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA – Saturn Awards

  • Best DVD/Blu-Ray Collection (As part of the “Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection”)
  • Best DVD/Blu0Ray Special Edition Release (For the “100th Anniversary Edition” release)
  • Golden Scroll – Best Advertising
  • Outstanding Film Award – Outstanding Film of 1975

American Cinema Editors, USA – Eddie Awards

  • Best Edited Feature Film

BAFTA Awards

  • Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music
  • Best Actor (Richard Dreyfuss)
  • Best Direction
  • Best Film
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Screenplay
  • Best Sound Track

Directors Guild of America, USA Awards

  • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures

DVD Exclusive Awards

  • Overall DVD, Classic Film (For “Jaws 30th Anniversary Edition”)

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Original Score – Motion Picture
  • Best Motion Picture – Drama
  • Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
  • Best Director – Motion Picture

Golden Schmoes Awards

  • Best DVD of the Year

Golden Screen Awards, Germany

  • Golden Screen

Grammy Awards

  • Album of Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special

International Film Music Critics Award

  • Best Archival Release of an Existing Score – Re-Release (liner notes by Scott Bettencourt)

National Film Preservation Board, USA

  • National Film Registry

Online Film & Television Association Awards

  • OFTA Film Hall of Fame – Motion Picture

People’s Choice Awards, USA

  • Favorite Motion Picture

Satellite Awards

  • Outstanding Overall DVD (Widescreen 30th Anniversary Collection)

Writers Guild of America, USA Awards

  • Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium


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