11 February 2009

63. Jaws

This is a very well-structured film.

We get an intense opening scene -- a shark kills a drunk hippie girl, and we see her yell and struggle and the tone of the piece is set.

We see our main character, Brody, and we get a sense of this small island town. But the girl's death is uncovered and we get a grisly glimpse -- this is the inciting incident.

The debate section involves Brody wanting to close the beaches and keep the people safe, but the Mayor wants to keep the beaches open for the 4th of July celebration. And we meet Quint, who gets a great introduction.

The subplot is Dreyfuss and his fussy, intellectual ways. And we have a bit of fun and games with Brody and Dreyfuss getting to know each other, getting drunk, having dinner together and going out on the boat while wasted.

At the midpoint, we have another shark attack, but this time it directly affects the main character and the Mayor's kids. So:

We change venues. We are now on the water. We finally we see the shark for real: The Bad Guy Is Closing In. More set pieces and problems -- the shark is too strong, the boat is falling apart -- and All Is Lost as the shark gets away.

Finally, the third act: the shark comes back stronger and angrier than ever, the subplot and main plot come together as Dreyfuss goes in the water and Quint dies, and the boat fully fails. Our main character overcomes his problem -- he is afraid of the water -- and he kills the shark. Man vs. Nature has a victor. The end.

And throughout it all, there are action scenes or set pieces every 10 to 15 minutes, which keep us on our toes at all points. We can't stop watching, because we never know what will happen next. This is all that a drama needs to do, and it does that in spades.

Other things beyond the writing: there are some surprisingly beautiful shots in this movie. The opening scene itself is gorgeous, with the young girl and young boy backlit by the rising sun. Also, Spielberg got some fine performances from Dreyfuss (as his doppelganger) and Shaw, who kills as Quint. Finally, Spielberg made a choice to show very little of the shark until near the end, which adds to the air of danger and scares us to the bone.


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