AFI 100 Years… 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ranking: #56
Classic thriller with sharp dialogue, Hitchcock-worthy moments of suspense, and a killer (ha!) score by John Williams.
First off, I noticed that Jaws feels like two separate stories. The first half of the film is a portrait of an idyllic seaside town, torn apart by fear and greed. The mayor of Amity is cowardly and detached (albeit sharply-dressed!), caring more about public relations than public safety. More than once he beseeches Chief Brody to “see that no one gets hurt”, but then directly urges folks to swim in the water, with disastrous results. There’s chaos, confusion, denial, local busybodies needing to make themselves heard, and colorful yahoos attempting to deal out vigilante justice. We get a sense of the deep frustration that Brody feels while trying to keep everyone happy, as well as the guilt he experiences over people dying on his watch. It’s quite a realistic snapshot of how human beings perceive natural disasters in general:
“There’s no way that’s going to happen to me, it’s no big deal…”
“Holy shit, that just happened to me! Somebody do something!”
Then comes the second half of the film: a rollicking, erratically-paced high seas adventure, the tension ebbing and flowing like the tides. There are long periods of waiting and then short bursts of frenzied action (just like fishing in real life!), harpoon guns, drunken sea shanties, and the sobering, real-life tale of the horrors that befell the USS Indianapolis, all building up to a cage-bashing, explosion-filled climax. Robert Shaw adds an element of unpredictability and conflict as Quint, the crazy-pirate-slash-shark-hunter who brings new meaning to the phrase “dead in the water” as he demolishes his own boat and strands the party in the midst of the great white’s feeding grounds. And Richard Dreyfuss’ character is a likeable and humorous foil to Roy Schneider’s more intense and perpetually worried Brody.
Let’s just put aside the ridiculousness of the shark (Why would it keep on attacking the boat? How on earth is it so strong? Is it on shark drugs or something?), and the fact that it’s supposedly a night feeder, but most of the attacks occur in broad daylight?? The film contains more than enough fake outs, jump scares, and enthralling action sequences to keep audiences entertained. Through careful editing and more shots of people panicking and reacting to the shark than the shots of the shark itself, the suspense builds… and floats… just under the surface… get it?!? I liked the sound effects during the underwater shots – the eerie, muffled bubbling really adds to the isolation and fear of not knowing when Mr. Sharky is going to pop out at you. Finally, the ending is kind of gross but it’s strangely satisfying to see tiny bits of shark exploding everywhere. Time to drink… here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women!
Part I: Amity, As You Know, Means Friendship
Light, tart, and refreshing. Just right for a summer day at the beach…
- 1 oz cachaca
- 2 oz grapefruit juice
- 1/4 oz lemon juice
- 1/4 oz grenadine
- soda water
Shake all ingredients (except soda water) in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a coupe glass and top with soda water.
Part II: You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat
Deliciously fruity and dangerously easy to drink. But who knows what evil lurks beneath the frothy white surface? Captain Quint knows…
- 1 & 1/2 oz spiced rum
- 3 oz pineapple juice
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1/4 oz blue curacao
Shake with ice. Strain into a rocks glass.