The screenplay is almost pulp, but a young, bold and extremely confident Steven Spielberg converts what could have easily have become a mediocre typical seventies chiller into an instant classic - full of suspense and juicy situations and relations. The key here is pacing and timing. Not only is the visualization (and for a long time; the lack of it) of the shark a stroke of genius (add John Williams' unique theme and you've invented an eternal connotation), but Spielberg is also a mastermind at build-up, characterizations and dramatic situations. Sure, some of the emotional outbursts here have the usual horror film quality (i.e. Mrs. Kintner's attack on Martin), but the overall dramatic level is extremely high. Most of this can be traced to the two main characters in the shoes of Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, and the two stars (who weren't actually very big stars before the film was released) have great chemistry between them. Enter Robert Shaw, and a bit of satirical comedy is introduced as well. But the Shaw character isn't only a spoof - his psychology is not a caricature (just take a look around), and his two-minute WWII monologue is sheer class.
Eventually, after an impressive
build-up which includes some well-stated politics, Jaws turns into
an exhilarating suspense-journey that knows exactly which buttons to
push and when to push them. It is remarkable how Spielberg keeps
everything fresh and pulsating even though we know most things about the
killer from the offset. And in contrast to most horror-films concerning
a monstrous predator (natural or fantastical), Jaws keeps up
until the very end without descending to cheap tricks or cheesy ideas.
It is a magnificent piece of motion picture from a time when Steven
Spielberg was about to establish himself as the hottest new director
around. The beauty of his early masterpieces (Duel, Jaws, Close
Encounters) was that he didn't feel the need to soak
every scene in morals and political correctness - he simply took fairly
ordinary stories and turned them into masterful films. That is quite an achievment.