Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Cutting Edges: "Jaws" (1975) Film Review

Fig 1: Film poster

Taken from Peter Benchley’s 1974 Novel, the movie “Jaws” (1975) was born. Directed by Steven Spielberg, there is without a doubt that “Jaws” is one of the most well known and iconic films in cinema; pioneering the future of disaster and man vs nature movies.
                With the 70s being a premium time period of disaster movies being released, “Jaws” began spinning the golden yarn of epic action movies. Much like a blueprint, this film set up an example for future films released during the summer months. In addition, “Jaws” is considered to be the first summer mega-hit, however, it is certainly not the last.

Fig 2: The first kill

One of the first scenes is shot from the sharks point of view. We see a perfectly vulnerable woman (Fig 2) swimming in the nude in the ocean. The camera is looking up in full view of her genitals, creating  a sense that is shark is an embodiment of a male sexual psychopath with one thing on the mind, and with this camera angle, it looks so easy. Eventually she is ripped to shreds by the beast and her blood curdling screams resonate with the viewer, instantly snapping you out of the sexual fantasy.
The plot is kept simple: the people on Amity island experience losses of people to the great white shark and are terrified of the ocean. A reward is set up to kill the beast, and Martin (Fig 3) , Matt (Fig 5) and Quint (Fig 6) set out on their own to find and kill it. Losing Quint to the monster, and Matt believed to be dead, Martin throws a propane gas tank into the mouth of the shark, subsequently shoots it and it explodes.

Fig 3: Martin

Though the obvious villain portrayed here is the shark itself, there are in fact two villains: the other being the mayor of the town. He is shown to be more occupied with tourists visiting the area than the welfare of human beings: “Jaws has two villains. During the first half of the film, the enemy isn’t the shark; it’s the face of the bureaucracy, as personified by the mayor. More concerned with the economic bottom line than with the possibility of someone being injured” (Bernardinelli, S.D) Yet, after tourists flood Amity island and a victim is killed, the Mayor is seen to be shocked and overwhelmed with guilt for letting it happen.

Fig 4: Martin vs Jaws

An interesting observation is the screen time for the shark itself (Fig 4). In our present day, we are familiar with seeing the face of a threat straight away, however, for the majority of the movie, only the body of the beast is shown underwater, it swimming and circling around, and the jaws of the monster itself. 
   Only near the end does the audience see it in detail after waiting so long (another example of immersing the audience; the longing to finally see the villain). Almar Haflidason explains rightly: “What is perhaps the most surprising about “Jaws” is the lack of screen time given to the ferocious shark. Rather than fill the modestly budgeted film with gratuitous effects, Spielberg relies on other tools to build tension and atmosphere. This includes a fearless use of long shots (not popular in Hollywood) which helps convey both isolation for the victims and endows the shark with seemingly god-like hunting powers.” (Haflidason, 2001).
                On the other hand, this “handicap” actually resulted in being the films greatest strengths: “By keeping Jaws hidden from the audience, the movie builds suspense to a high level” (Bernardinello, S.D)

With Spielberg's camera direction, there is an interesting dilemma within the viewer while watching: Do you relate to the shark as you eagerly await seeing it brutally kill another person, or do you relate to the people and hope for them to run to safety and kill the shark? There are seemingly equal time gaps between each kill, and the suspense for the next one keeps the viewer on edge.  

What also cannot go unnoticed is the use of John Williams famous score used to show that the shark is present and is approaching. Young and old, this musical score is familiarized with almost everyone; knowing there is suspense and something bad will happen. Haflidason explains: “John Williams memorable score is used sparingly but its tone of impending terror is more responsible for the power of the film than the sightings of the beast itself.” (Haflidason, 2001)

Fig 5: Matt

Although “Jaws” is film filled with fear, tension and gore, Spielberg slips in some light humor that helpfully lifts the mood in places. This is predominately shown with the presence of the character Matt, who makes remarks such as “well, they’re all gonna die” (humorously)  and smiling to himself; laughing hysterically on the boat with Martin and Quint, pulling faces behind Quints back. This character, mixed with the other characters makes the film more relatable and calmer. The blossoming "bromance" between the three men progresses when they share stories of their scars, and laugh about their life experiences. These warm moments make the audience, for a moment, forget the looming existence of the shark, and begin to really like the characters.
                With this, some who watch “Jaws” will feel some kind of sadness at Quints death; he his brutally bitten in half from the waist down (Fig 6).This seemingly isolated man who had just made friends had his life cut short by a fearsome predator. There is also a connotation to be noted with the shark ripping into Quint from the waist down – it is as though he is detached from his manhood and is thus demeaned as a man, something that the majority of men would fear, and the shark could be a powerful female presence that rips this away from him, as the female can be seen as the bringer of life (pregnancy; carrying eggs) so is qualified to also take life (killing Quint).

Fig 6: The end of Quint

“Jaws” was considered a nightmare to be filmed; going way over budget and the shark puppet not working, however most will agree that it is one of the best films of all time. The style of “Jaws” is steady and builds to a climax at the end, and the end itself is in a way, perfect. The shark is exploded into pieces, eaten by gulls, and Matt and Martin make it back to land.
                There is a reason “Jaws” is so widely known and celebrated for its excellence; see it for yourself to understand why.


Bernardinelli, J. (S.D) reelreviews (Accessed on 09/02/2016) http://www.reelviews.net/reelviews/jaws
Bleasdale, J.(2012) cine-vue (Accessed on 09/02/2016) http://www.cine-vue.com/2012/06/film-review-jaws-re-release.html
Haflidason, A. (2001) BBC Films (Accessed on 09/02/2016) http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/07/14/jaws_review.shtml

Illustraion List 

Fig 1: "Film poster" (Accessed on 09/02/2016) http://www.posterposter.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/jaws1.jpg
Fig 2: "The first kill" (Accessed on 09/02/2016) https://iankayfilm.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/jaws.jpg
Fig 3: "Martin " (Accessed on 09/02/2016) https://jackflacco.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/jaws-roy-scheider-chief-martin-brody.jpg
Fig 4: "Martin vs Jaws" (Accessed on 09/02/2016 )https://pic.yify-torrent.org/1975/31860/90b1f0c3434f45429e5b4f1b75f07662.png
Fig 5: "Matt" (Accessed on 09/02/2016) http://images.mentalfloss.com/sites/default/files/styles/insert_main_wide_image/public/857y8.png
Fig 6: "The end of Quint" (Accessed on 09/02/2016) http://application.denofgeek.com/pics/film/spielberg.disturbing/01.jpg


  1. just a quick correction; that image you've got of the shark coming out of the water is actually from the dreaded 'Jaws 4'... argh! Quick, replace it!

  2. Hi Manisha!
    A thorough review, well done :)
    Just a couple of 'interesting' spellings... you have 'the accidence' instead of what I think should be 'audience', and, more interestingly (and almost fittingly!) you have Matt Hooper as a 'charcuterie', which is a selection of cold sliced meats!! :D

    1. Thank you! Oh dear, i need to properly proof read haha, thanks for pointing them out!