Jaws

||Genre: adventure, drama, thriller, horror||Year: 1975||Duration: 2h4min||Director: Steven Spielberg||Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss||

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4 Stars

A Goliath of a shark takes over the waters of a summer resort (Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts) and goes downright off the rails as it takes to preying on its people. The “inciting incident” makes itself known in no time, the first minutes of the film presenting the first victim. Immediately afterwards a corpse is found (the victim’s)- the body of a girl gone swimming and torn to shreds. Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), chief of police, is shortly informed of the incident and upon seeing the body he calls a spade a spade- a shark attack- and sets out to close the beaches. This is where the conflict emerges. A shark amounts to closing the beaches, the bread and butter of the town. Locals with money at stake proceed to voice their discontent. Chief among them is Mayor Larry (Murray Hamilton), one maddeningly obstructive, see-nothing, do-nothing pain the ass, who hogties the Chief’s decision to close the books on swimming.He puts forward another “explanation” to account for the severed body, namely a boat propeller, and Chief Brody finds himself shanghaied into accepting it. Before long another girl gets killed- this time in broad daylight and right in front of everyone’s eyes. Following this second shark attack, the Chief does his best again to close the beaches, but once again people are muttering and mumbling their dissatisfaction- they have motels to run and whatnot and thus money to lose. This sandbags the Chief into dialing the closing down to only 24 hours But this sounds not too good either to the ears of the committee. The conflict thus consists, as far as Chief Brody is concerned, in having to do the right thing while hindered by the Mayor and co. With his hands tied and straitjacketed in action despite having to bear the whole responsibility on his shoulders, he finds himself in an inner shambles. Now, as to the shark situation,a bounty is placed on the fish. This prompts a straight up frenzy and entices quite a good deal of people into taking a stab at catching and killing the beast gone berserk. Mr. Quint (Robert Shaw), a sea dog and a rather peculiar man is confident about killing the shark and puts himself forward to do so, provided the bounty is raised from three to ten thousand.

Owing to the bounty, a shark is indeed caught and people are making quite a bit of a razzmatazz over the catch, with the big heroes crowding around the fish to take a photo underscoring man’s foot on nature’s neck, and the Mayor raring to let it be known that there’s no such thing as beach closing. Not on his watch. This guy from the Oceanographic Institute who’s just come along though, is quite skeptical and has his doubts as to whether the catch is really their guy. All the kerfuffle may be for nothing and the white killer shark still out in the open. But a big fish was caught, which is more than enough for the Mayor, who manages to head off their splitting the shark open to make sure.

The Chief is cracking under the pressure of being unable to act despite being the responsible one. A woman (the mother of one of the victims) comes up to him and smacks him good, telling him off- he knew a shark was behind it, and all the same he chose not to close the damn beaches. Clear as day, the film boils down to greed, danger and decisional rectitude. The dismissive, obstinate Mayor who won’t hear of any such nonsense as, perish the thought, closing the beaches, is counterpoised by the Oceanographic Institute guy, who serves as the voice of reason and ballast to the Chief’s inner mayhem. As the story progresses, the Mayor eventually gives in and consents to hire Quint for the job and so the Chief, the oceanographer and Quint go fishing.

“Jaws” is one of the flicks Steven Spielberg is best known for and the movie he built his career on out of the blocks. As a testament to the quality and seminality of the movie also stands the whole lot of flicks that tried to follow in its footsteps but rather came over as pale epigons – Alligator(1980), Grizzly(1976), Anaconda(1997), Piranha (1978), and what have you. It was no slam dunk though, as he chanced his arm, investing inordinately for the budgets allotted at the time. Employing deft camera angles and stressing the character’s reactions rather than the appearance of the shark, as well as making use of a spine-tingling soundtrack, he managed to pull it off. And good thing he did, as “Jaws” constitutes one of the cinematography landmarks and the epitome of natural horror.

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