Dwilder’s review published on Letterboxd:
One of the most popular and influential features of all time Jaws is indeed a stunning cinematic work and one of the greatest blockbusters of our time.
Jaws follows the story of a series of shark attacks on a seaside resort in New England and the subsequent hunt for the creature at fault. The simplicity of this story is also its major strength with the picture moving from an investigation into the brutal deaths and turning into an adventure picture as three men go and attempt to kill the beast. What makes Jaws so engaging is that it is boundary pushing in its handling of the materiel with the filmmakers unafraid to kill off both a child and a dog. This sets the tone early on and makes for a genuinely frightening feature that is very tense due to the fact we are always under the impression that all of the characters are in grave danger. I don’t like the red herring of there being two sharks. I feel this is a little too implausible but this is a small complaint in an otherwise tight and well constructed story.
The greatest strength of Jaws though is the outstanding Direction of a young Steven Spielberg who does a magnificent job here. From the early moments Spielberg expertly builds the tension due to a brilliantly executed and confused early death sequence which is hugely frightening to this day. After this his deft sleight of hand only makes the picture more intense with the genius decision taken (out of necessity) to not show the shark in the early stages really paying off. Instead what we get are lurking POV shots of the shark on the prowl through the water looking for victims and this is absolutely terrifying and gives us a real sense of horror as the unseen killer is a really scary force. Then when the shark is revealed the picture still manages to be an intense and scary experience with some of the imagery (such as the cage scene) absolutely nightmare inducing and thanks to some brilliant editing from Verna Fields and Spielberg’s polished style the last half hour is a pact, suspenseful and thrilling watch.
The experience of the cast really helps Jaws as well. Roy Scheider is a tough and likeable central figure, Richard Dreyfuss as the shark expert is excellent as well but the real standout is the underrated and brilliant Robert Shaw as seasoned seaman Quint. His monologue about a shark attack still sends shivers up the spine. I can’t review Jaws though and not mention John Williams’ iconic score. The brooding soundtrack to the feature is utterly terrifying and really helps to increase the sense of dread and terror that Spielberg has done so well to create. The cinematography of Bill Butler is also very strong here.
To conclude, Jaws is an engrossing, intense and utterly gripping adventure that basically created the summer blockbuster. Spielberg really announces himself as a Director with his confident, capable work here and the cast are all amazing throughout. Jaws is a stunning and incredibly important thriller and without saying a word the shark is one of cinema’s most horrifying villains.