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Genre: Adventure Horror Thriller
Directed By: Steven Spielberg (Munich; Saving Private Ryan)
Overview: It's a big huge shark that eats people. What else do you need? That a town decides to go out and kill it? There you go, I said it.
Aside from the amazing and often comedic roles of Scheider as the aquaphobic small town sheriff and Dreyfuss as the oceanographer, we have Robert Shaw (Battle Of The Bulge) as Quint, a scurvy sea-dog of a shark hunter with a mighty big chip on his shoulder. I've said before that some films are made for actors, and this is one of those scripts that are written to make the right man in the right role shine. Over-rated as I might think Spielberg to be, this is one of his great works.
Aside from being shown this film as an example of great editing in a film class I once took, the climactic Act is long! Long in that suspenseful, difficult Man-Versus-Nature, hard-trial-of-life sort of way. This film's style reminded me that good movies were made once, honest films where fat people and lanky people all went to the beach instead of being crowded full of buxom blondes. The realism of this film, ginormous killer man eating sharks aside, is refreshing, clearing a highway for great storytelling.
I'm not going to waste my time arguing with a man who's lining up to be a hot lunch.
There's a monologue spoken by Quint in this one that just so happens to have been discussed by one of my critic counterparts (careful spoilers). Damian even goes so far as to say that "it is probably one of the great cinematic speeches of all time." I would say that my favorite lines are actually Dreyfuss', he's an angry little man with a quick wit and has a way of making his little tongue-in-cheek comments completely profound.
The weakest part of the film, this is really just a story about a bad thing that gets what's coming to it. It's not original, it's not full of twists and turns and guessing games, it's a shark, everyone knows it's a shark, and it's a killer. Somehow though, a simple tale about a Great White manages to be solid because of the human element, the people involved, the families affected by it. When a mother loses her son we aren't lead to think, "oh crap there goes another!" Rather, we're drawn into the guilt and shame that comes from being a cop who didn't do something when he could have. It's so good because it's NOT about bodycount and action sequences.
Best Suspense music ever. The film opens with it, and when you stop tittering at the awesomeness about to take place on a beach where the mayor wears these tacky suits and dons a PR-friendly plastic set of smilers, you get sucked into the sheriff's fear and doubt and into the oceanographer's raging at ethical incompetence and Quint's plain old hatred. Did I mention how long the actual shark hunt is? Yeah, awesome. Killer sharks, go figure, they're scary.
Overall Rating: 86% (Nail-Biting Suspense!)
No it's not just a movie you laugh at the 70s about. Yes it's a yardstick film that helps define the times, the values and the entertainment that people wanted in 1975, and you've sure got a plentiful share of suspense to go around. It's fun, it's a classic, and you knew it would pop up on the Vituperatem eventually...