Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic “Jaws” was so terrifying that it had audiences staying clear of oceans for years. This horror/thriller was adapted from Peter Benchley’s novel (also called “Jaws”) which had only been published the prior year. This movie stays very close to the theme of isolation which is a very common characteristic among other horror/thrillers.
The movie starts off with a small party on the beach. A boy and a girl detach themselves from the larger group and walk towards the water. The girl leaves the boy and starts to swim while she is completely alone. This is the first time that the theme of isolation is addressed. The boy (who is too drunk to function) has stopped on the shore and is oblivious to everything around him. Meanwhile, the girl has swam out quite a bit and when the audience is beginning to gain interest as to why so much attention is put on this seemingly unimportant girl, the shark’s first attack is made. We see from the shark’s point of view as the girl swims by. At only four minutes and four seconds into the movie, the girl is tugged by the shark and the audience realizes that they will be on the edge of their seats for the whole movie. The girl screams for help, but nobody can hear her. Close up shots show her fear and pain as the shark attacks her, while long shots show her being dragged to insight a feeling of helplessness in the audience. The girl struggles for a short time, but ultimately is pulled under and doesn’t resurface.
The next scene is of Brody (the main character and town’s sheriff) waking up and getting a call that tells him to investigate what has happened to the girl. This is a case of dramatic irony as the audience knows what happened, but to the townspeople it is still a mystery. As the story unfolds, we see that the feeling of isolation isn’t just during shark attacks, but will be a prominent motif in the film. The town is on an island that is cut off from all other society, except during the summer as a resort. Brody and his family are looked upon as outsiders from the other townspeople, because they weren’t born on the island and therefore, cannot be considered “islanders”. Finally and possibly most striking, Brody cannot swim and is even afraid of the water. This singles him out and people look down on him for this flaw, despite him having authoritative power. The mayor of the town, on many occasions, reminds Brody of his lack of social power in efforts to bully him into keeping the beaches open.
When the shark attacks in the middle of the day while the beach is packed, Brody finally convinces the mayor to sign a paper that allows Quint (a mad old ship captain) to be paid for hunting down the shark. Also on the “fishing trip” is Hooper (a young marine biologist who specializes in sharks) and of course Sheriff Brody. Brody is once again in line with his isolation from the other crew members as he is the only person on the ship without any experience with sharks or even basic seamanship.
The ship is old and doesn’t look all that ready to hunt down a massive great white shark. This is very clear to the audience and they know that there is going to be no safety for the crew from this point of the movie onwards. The audience doesn’t even have to wait long for the shark to encounter the ship and the true power of the shark is revealed. The shark is not only big, but also smart as it fights with quint, until it disappears. Again, the audience doesn’t have much time to catch their breaths as for the first time the shark shows it’s face. Brody is left alone at the back of the boat throwing bait into the water when behind him the head of the shark surfaces. Brody has only a split second to see the shark, but backs away to where the others are and delivers one of the most iconic lines in movie history: “You’re (we’re) going to need a bigger boat.” This line really sums it up. They are clearly unprepared for the monster that faces them. Nobody is going to help them face it. They might die. They are helpless and alone.
The movie progress with the shark and the crew in constant (though not constantly threatening) battle. Both sides have taken damage. The shark is almost out of pulling power and the crew are doing all they can to keep the boat from sinking. Finally, Hooper decides they have no other option, but for him to go in the water and tranquilize the shark. Helplessness befalls Brody and Quint as they can do nothing for their shipmate once he has left the boat, and Hooper feels insignificant as he is almost totally exposed to the enormous size and strength of the monster. Almost immediately Hooper drops his weapon, and becomes totally defenseless as the shark breaks the cage that was supposed to be Hooper’s protection. Though sheer luck does Hooper get away, and the shark retaliates on what’s left of the ship. The shark destroys the ship, killing and eating Quint in the process, and Brody is alone. Not just metaphorically anymore, he is truly alone, on a sinking ship, with an enormous great white attacking. Using his wits, Brody is actually able to shoot an oxygen tank in the shark’s mouth causing the creature to explode. After the last bit of intensity has ended, Hooper surfaces and embraces Brody. The two create a makeshift raft and slowly make their way back to land. It is a very calming end, but arguably the best way to end the movie. The entire film the audience felt anxious and alone, but in the last scene as Hooper and Brody kick for shore, the audience is able to catch their breath and relax as Brody (the perpetual outsider) has accomplished what no other could and reaps the benefit of unity and friendship.