Jaws ★★★★★

It's like coming back to an old friend after some time apart, and after a while you realise exactly why this is one of your best friends for life, and wonder why you left it so long.

It had been a few years, probably getting on for a decade since the Blu-Ray came out and I watched 'Jaws' last. And i won't lie, as the Universal logo (updated several times since, but never for the better) came up, i was a little apprehensive. Had the passage of time rubbed some of the sheen from the storytelling, performances and visuals? Would 'Jaws' look quaint and antiquated in the superannuated age of Marvel and the relentless march of digital progress? Would it seem sluggish next to the breakneck pacing deployed by Abrams, Snyder and their contemporary blockbuster makers?

Two hours later, I knew that I needn't have worried. Just the opposite. 'Jaws' looks more and more like one of the greatest movies ever made. I think that's mainly due to it being one of the most complete examples of a movie managing to be all things to all people at once. Cineastes get to wax lyrical about the precision of Verna Field's editing, the sustained qualities of Spielberg's framing, blocking, pacing (slow? not a bit of it. If anything, when you compare it to the elephantine character criss-crossing and laborious 'meanwhile, back at...' pace-sapping sprawl of the likes of 'Infinity War' and 'Endgame', the lean, concise 'Jaws' moves like a rocket in comparison) and the Summery pastel beauty of Bill Butler's cinematography. Those who want to kick back and enjoy the simple virtues of a good yarn with engaging characters and high-stakes drama will find few better examples than 'Jaws'. Aficionados of the horror genre will find several of the best-timed scares and manipulation of sheer suspense anywhere. And of course, geeks and fanboys know that this is a movie they can rely on, both to prove their credentials as knowledgeable fans of cinemas and as a cosy audience-participation classic. Frankly, 'Jaws' is a riot when watched with like-minded drunk buddies all joining in and repeating the cool lines ('I'll find him for three. But I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten'. 'That's some bad hat, Harry'. 'A tiger shark..' 'A whaaaat?!'. 'You're gonna need a bigger boat'. 'Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies'.) And then there's the richness that you can pick away at over the years and repeated viewings, such as the subtle genius of Joe Alves' production design (note the shark-teeth emphasis on fences that predominate the opening act of the film, the use of yellow as a warning, the barrels on the Orca most overtly, but also more subtly such as the yellow traffic barriers in the same shot as the grieving Mrs. Kintner as she approaches Chief Brody on the docks) and the other subliminal choices such as almost the only use of red in the film being that of blood. And so on, ad infinitum.

Of course, 'Jaws' is famously one of the best ever examples in movie history of making lemonade out of lemons. Spielberg had to deploy so many wonderful suspense mechanisms in his storytelling because the shark simply refused to work. The delays caused by the malfunctioning beast led the cast to hone and refine their characters and dialogue to such a fine point that we feel like we know them like family by the time two hours have elapsed. Verna Fields had to deliver one of the all-time great edited movies to cut around the lack of a monster, to hide the mismatched weather systems (we never notice or care that sunshine and overcast skies alternate from shot to shot throughout). John Williams had to produce an all-time classic score to fill the gaps where a monster should be. Spielberg had to become a master director because he'd never had a hit, the budget was going out of control and the studio was getting increasingly antsy. The adversity and tribulations just brought the absolute best out of everyone.

Together these heroes managed to triumph over adversity and bring home one of my favourite movies of all time.

It wont be another ten years before I take this incredible ride again.

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