Monday, July 10, 2006


1975, US, directed by Steven Spielberg

More than 30 years on, Jaws remains the reference point for the summer movie: virtually nothing since has managed to marry the film's commercial success with the same level of cinematic virtuosity, and surely no other warm-weather blockbuster has had such a profound impact on the language of cinematic thrills. The fact that the big, bad shark looks like an overgrown bathtub toy (once Spielberg decides to reveal the beast: he's sensibly kept under wraps for most of the film, further ratcheting up the tension) is rendered irrelevant by the sense of panic and fear so expertly created. It's all the more disappointing, then, that too many of Spielberg's subsequent movies are beset with a sense of schmaltz that's almost entirely absent from this film; even the film's domestic scenes have a feeling of realism rather than the sentimental gloss so familiar in his later work. The sequences of macho bravado, too, seem to belong more to the work of Spielberg contemporaries like Scorsese or Coppola; beautifully played by Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss, they add great depth to the undersea thrills, while Shaw's speech, scripted by John Milius, about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis remains one of the great movie soliloquies.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States