Masterfully directed by Steven Spielberg and widely regarded as one of the best movies of all time, Jaws marked a before and after in the history of cinema, among other things for being the highest grossing film of all time at the moment of its release (surpassed two years later by Star Wars: Episode IV) and establishing the formula used for Hollywood blockbusters today.
The exquisite plot offers everything, from the most exciting suspense and visceral horror to the symbolism of the political class and its fraud to the masses. It all starts with the death of a girl by a shark that somehow hits the beaches of Amity Island, (U.S. fictional island).
The body reaches the hands of police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), who correctly deduces that the tragedy was caused by the animal. Much risk there is with such predator in the waters, hence the immediate closure of all public beaches is ordered until further notice. However, holiday season is about to come, and the mayor doesn´t like the idea of the city’s economy getting hurt. As often happens in real life, a politician places economic interests above the welfare of citizens. Brody strives to do the right thing, but the powers that be have made their choice. The next victim won´t have to wait long: a young child gets devoured while enjoying a sunny day with his mom. Youth has paid the negligence of social leaders, and now Brody carries this death on his conscience.
The only good thing is that now everyone knows that a shark is out and the mayor can no longer ignore the elephant in the room. Therefore a substantial reward is offered for anyone who hunts the animal, which attracts many newcomers to the adventure. And certainly, a shark is caught and brought to claim the prize. Everybody´s happy… until Brody, together with marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), secretly examines the stomach of the shark and finds no human remains, hence deducing that this couldn´t be the one that ate the child. The couple will try vehemently to convince the mayor that danger´s still ahead, but he just keeps turning a blind eye … or seeing only what he wants to see.
Once again, the political class disappoints those citizens it was supposed to take care for, showing a reality that doesn´t exist, a fantasy world that truly is a horror film where the jaws of a vicious animal get embedded into a third human being. Now the holidays are here, and people follow their mayor to the beach without great concern, as calves, politely guided into slaughter, only to realize too late… the shark appears and does his thing. So two of the most interesting scenes of the film arrive: the first, Brody rescues his son from the beach where he almost died at the hands of the shark and gives a challenging glance to the sea: now it’s personal. The hero has failed to take responsibility, evil has spread and now it´s his family the one that is in danger. Now it really matters. The second, in the same style, the mayor, now repentant of what he did, tells Brody in the hospital: “My children were also on that beach.” Who cares if others suffer, but… our families? Suddenly we are more compassionate…
Now there´s no turning back, confronting evil is the only option. A professional shark hunter named Quint (Robert Shaw) is hired for $10,000 to lead the hunt. The three ingredients for an epic hunt are gathered, where Quint represents force, Hooper technology and intelligence and Brody the nobility of the hero, the one who gets inspired in the most difficult moments, but who´s also very lucky to be the last candidate to die.
Together they face the most stubborn and intelligent shark that cinema has ever seen, with scenes that every aspiring filmmaker would do well to watch more than once, with the shark shown indirectly most of the time (suspense music, fin, camera under the sea…), but more than enough to make us shake on our chairs. True, this way of filming was influenced by the fact that the mechanical shark gave a lot of problems and Spielberg couldn´t use it much: but, as often happens, improvisation gave birth to a masterpiece.