Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
#1 – The Shark Surprises Brody
This, in my opinion, is the most perfectly executed shot of the whole movie: a peaceful lull in the action aboard the Orca, Brody throwing chum into the water, and while your concentration is on his humorous line, “Slow ahead? I can go slow ahead…come on down and chum some of this shit,” suddenly WHOOSH! comes a shark’s head out of the boat’s wake into the frame, scaring the living jujubes out of every person in the theater. It’s the movie’s first true jolt, and first look at the shark, and it’s immediately followed by another great shot of Brody suddenly standing bolt upright and staring shell-shocked into the water as the shark slowly slides back down beneath the waves. We then get Roy Scheider’s famous ad-libbed quote to Quint—”You’re gonna need a bigger boat”—to round out the moment.
#2 – The Orca Heads Out to Sea
This one shot says it all: the Orca heads out to sea with our three leads on-board, ready to do battle with the great white shark…the part of the movie we’ve all been waiting for. The camera is inside Quint’s shack, and pushes forward towards a set of shark jaws hung in front of a window as the boat glides away towards the Atlantic. What I love is that the camera angle gives the impression the Orca is heading right into the jaws of the shark; I just wish Spielberg had remained with the shot for a bit longer than he did, to allow the Orca to arrive dead-center in the middle of the ‘mouth’. Instead, it cuts away a few seconds too soon. Oh well…it’s still a cool shot.
#3 – Quint Studies the Reel
A very well-done sequence, expertly bringing actor, camera, and John Williams’ score together to create one very intense moment. Once again, things are peaceful and quiet aboard the Orca, where Quint is sitting in the ‘fighting chair’ with the rod and reel next to him. Then, very slowly and quietly—tick…tick…tick—the line on the reel begins to play out, unbeknownst to anyone but Quint. He studies the line for a few moments, then carefully begins to slide into his harness, set the rod into the cup, lock his harness to the reel, and get settled into the chair, ready to take on whatever’s at the other end of the line. Each movement is accompanied by a low, ominous thrum of music from Williams, adding to the tension.
#4 – Hooper Sees What’s Left of Chrissie
Chief Brody, Hooper, and the town’s medical examiner are about to take a look at the remains of Chrissie, the first shark attack victim. Watch Hooper’s face as he notices the small tub the doctor is carrying to the table, realizing in that moment that what’s inside is all that’s left of the unfortunate swimmer; Richard Dreyfuss plays it subtle, and it works beautifully. He then pulls away the tub’s cover, and though we don’t see what’s inside there, he does. Again, the look on his face, and the fact that his breathing visibly becomes more rapid; Brody and the ME are no doubt used to this sort of thing, but Hooper definitely is not. Kudos too to the actor playing the ME, Martha’s Vineyard resident Robert Nevin, who I think does a great job of looking uncomfortable and guilty when he’s scolded by Hooper.
#5 – Brody and Hooper Paddle to Shore
The shark has been defeated, Brody and Hooper are alive, and both grab onto a rope connecting two floating yellow barrels and begin kicking towards shore as seagulls feast on the shark’s innards—potato chips, actually—on the water in front of them. What I like about this scene is the exchange of dialogue between Brody and Hooper as they paddle: Brody mentions that the tide is with them, then chuckles and says, “I used to hate the water,” and Hooper replies, “I can’t imagine why.” I think it’s such a cool line, and a neat way to bring to a close the characters’ story, and the end of the film.
Three Other Favorite Moments from Jaws
Quint scratches the chalkboard and makes his offer.
The conversation between Brody, Hooper, and Mayor Vaughn at the billboard.
And of course, Ben Gardner’s head.