Directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1975, ‘Jaws’ is a classic thriller known for its artful direction, compelling themes and memorable characters. The movie is set in the fictional seaside town of Amity Island, and its plot revolves around a great white shark that terrorises the community.
The story begins with a young woman’s brutal death while swimming in the waters off Amity Island. Police Chief Martin Brody, played by Roy Scheider, investigates the incident and quickly realises that a shark attack is the likely cause. He wants to close the beaches to protect the public, but the town’s mayor, Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), is more concerned about the economic impact of the upcoming July 4th holiday and insists on keeping the beaches open.
As more attacks occur, including the tragic death of a young boy, Brody seeks the help of a marine biologist named Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and a shark hunter named Quint (Robert Shaw) to capture and kill the deadly animal. The three men set out on Quint’s boat, the Orca, in pursuit of the great white shark.
Throughout their journey, they face numerous challenges and confrontations with the massive predator. The shark’s incredible size and intelligence make it a formidable adversary. The tension on the boat rises as the crew battles not only the shark but also their own fears and conflicts. Eventually, they manage to hook the shark with a harpoon, but it escapes and continues to attack the boat.
In the climactic showdown, the shark repeatedly attacks the boat, ultimately leading to a final, intense confrontation between Brody, Hooper, and Quint. The film reaches its climax when Brody manages to shoot a pressurised scuba tank in the shark’s mouth, causing a massive explosion that kills the predator.
Jaws taps neatly into the feat of the unknown, the primal fear of what could be lurking beneath the ocean surface. But this came around by accident. Steven Spielbergs mechanical shark malfunctioned more times than it worked, leading him to use the yellow barrels. Those yellow barrels identified to the viewer that the shark was there but did not allow direct viewing of the shark until the plot called for it, much later on in the film.
Man versus nature is something that the world faces on a regular basis. It is put across very well through the movie by the use of the characters and their manner. Quint, Brody, and Hooper represent different approaches to dealing with the shark, reflecting humanity’s attempts to control and conquer the natural world.
We see transformation, heroism, and sacrifice throughout the movie. While Quint remains steadfast in the management of the Orca and the two men with him, we see Hooper go through stages. We see him confident and knowledgeable but as they realise what they are up against, Matt Hooper realises that he might have been a little naïve about the situation.
It’s Chief Brody that goes through the biggest change through the movie. As the film progresses and the threat of the great white shark becomes more apparent, Chief Brody undergoes a transformation from a somewhat hesitant and bureaucratic figure to a determined and courageous hero. Several key factors contribute to this:
Chief Brody is initially unsure about closing the beaches when the first shark attack occurs. However, as the danger becomes more evident, he begins to take his role & responsibility as the protector of the town’s residents very seriously.
Brody’s personal growth is accelerated by his interactions with Quint (Robert Shaw): Quint is the seasoned shark hunter hired to capture the great white. He’s a grizzled, rugged character with a mysterious past and a deep obsession with hunting sharks. He also interacts with Matt Hooper, played by Richard Dreyfuss. Hooper is a marine biologist with scientific expertise. He provides the intellectual perspective and contrast to Quint’s more visceral approach to dealing with the shark.
Quint and Hooper both provide him with knowledge and support, helping him evolve from a desk job to a hands-on participant in the effort to hunt the shark.
Brody, who has a fear of the water, must confront his own fears as he joins Quint and Hooper on their mission to capture the shark. This represents a significant transformation as he overcomes his personal phobia.
Brody’s dedication and determination to protect the people of Amity Island and his commitment to catching the shark at any cost becomes evident as the film progresses. He faces numerous challenges and risks his life to ensure the safety of the community.
By the end of the film, Chief Brody has evolved into a resolute and courageous individual who plays a vital role in the final showdown with the great white shark. His transformation from a cautious, bureaucratic figure to a fearless protector is a central element of the character’s arc and adds depth to the narrative of “Jaws.”
The direction of this film is flawless, and tension and suspense built through pacing of the story as well as the use of music. Jaws will eternally be remembered for John Williams masterful use of minimal notes for maximum impact. Add into that, the shark being seen only by virtue of yellow barrels on the surface, and you have a winning combination.
The film’s cinematography, led by Bill Butler, includes innovative techniques like the use of a mechanical shark (nicknamed Bruce) and underwater shots, creating a sense of realism and urgency.
Spielberg’s direction allows for strong character development, particularly through the interactions between Brody, Quint, and Hooper. Their dynamics add depth to the story.
“Jaws” is filled with iconic moments, such as the opening shark attack, the “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” line, and the final showdown. Spielberg’s direction ensures these scenes are etched into cinematic history.
In summary, “Jaws” is a cinematic masterpiece known for its timeless themes, well-drawn characters, and Steven Spielberg’s expert direction, which elevated it into a cultural phenomenon and a classic in the thriller genre.