Jaws ★★★★

That it is a two-act-er helps its cause immensely: identify problem, decide to kill the problem. But it's that latter that struck me this time as being a bit unsavory. As I get older, I'm increasingly uneasy with humanity's treatment of sentient beings[1], particularly in cases in which the cruelty isn't necessary.

"Stay out of the water; let the fish leave on his own" would have been my general take[2]. Instead it ends up being about three doofuses deciding to be macho, with the most macho of them smashing the radio, besides, to ensure that the mission would become all-or-nothing.

Which meant that my increased clarity on the direness of the situation didn't resolve my ambiguity about the quest. This would, possibly, be better if the movie followed through with the Moby Dick[3] theme, with Bruce living and Scheider washing up on shore, but there are obvious (commercial for the movie, rather than just for the town[4]) reasons as to why that wouldn't work.

This ambiguity (on my part) is a shame, because all of the (allegedly improvised) dialogue grace-notes are very good[5], and the shooting is masterful[6]. There's rarely a moment in which the viewer feels "safe."

FWIW the 4K blu-ray is absurd in its clarity. Those barrels have never looked so beaten and worn nor the smoke so black. It adds a verisimilitude that still surprised me half-a-dozen watches in.

Also, also: While the Williams score is justly lauded, and Bruce's theme and accompanying music are fantastic, the sections of jaunty adventure score (as the subtitles call it) become extremely grating.

[1] The movie goes out of its way to point out how smart "Bruce" is, while still also discussing that this is what he's evolved to be. It's a bit strange that the film comes down on the religious side of the creature being "evil"[7] rather than that some idiots are hunting him.

[2] I mean, shit. Look how much better states that did that with COVID are doing now.

[3] One of my favorite aspects of Moby Dick (which is one of my favorite novels) is that right up until there are 5 pages to go, the whale is still indifferent to Ahab's grudge: "He seemed swimming with his utmost velocity, and now only intent upon pursuing his own straight path in the sea." Perhaps my favorite aspect is that the reader can be solidly on the whale's side by the end. Jaws allows no such ambiguity.

[4] It would be pretty funny trying to imagine what the Mayor would do if their last greatest hope of killing the shark had failed. The right thing, by closing the beaches? Probably not.

[5] I was struck this time by Shaw's delivery of "Your husband's fine, Mrs. Brody. He's fishing. He's just caught a couple of stripers. We'll bring 'em in for dinner. We won't be long, we haven't seen anything yet. Over and out."

[6] The remnants of the dock turning back toward shore has to be one of the most darkly humorous moments in horror-movie history.

[7] In the making-of documentary that begins immediately after the film on the new disc, Spielberg discusses how he saw this as a rehash of his debut picture Duel. The difference, of course, is that humans can choose to be evil. Sharks can not.

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