Jaws ★★★★★

No. 8:
Empire Magazines Greatest Challenge: 301 films, 301 words

The shark not working was a godsend. By not being able to show us the shark from the get go, Spielberg and Williams were able to optimise the tension and fear of its presence with just two of the most famous music notes in cinema.

Though often labelled as a thriller or horror, the film manages to cover many other genres. It’s astonishing that its fairly basic setup and story of a shark terrorising a community can evoke so many different themes. Patriotism, nostalgia, capitalism, masculinity, obsession, social class, romanticism, science, spiritualism, and the fear of the unknown (Hell, there are even Marxist readings of the shark). A film of two halves, the first being a slow burning thriller in which the community is shook to its core through violence and arrogance, while the second is a high seas adventure film that follows three men pushed to their limits in a struggle for survival.

The performances are outstanding, the characters are memorable, the cinematography is stunning, the production design is grand, the action incredibly well staged, its pacing is efficient, the direction is flawlessly handled and the screenplay is stronger and tighter than the book in every conceivable way. The magic of its enduring legacy is hard to distil into a single component, but Spielberg’s ingenious level of technical precision and knowhow is what strengthens its longevity, and casts it as an exercise into pure filmmaking spectacle. Even though this is only his second theatrical feature, leaps and bounds from his origins, Spielberg certifies himself as Hollywood’s finest at enthralling audiences.

It’s difficult to add anything else to what it essentially one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. A triumph like no other and without equal, Jaws gave birth to the modern blockbuster, and it's Spielberg’s greatest accomplishment.

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