Film: Witness (1985)

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Film:

Witness

Director: Peter Weir
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Genres:
Distributor: Paramount

When Samuel (Lukas Haas), a young Amish boy traveling with his mother Rachel (Kelly McGillis), witnesses the murder of a police officer in a public restroom, he and his mother become the temporary wards of John Book (Harrison Ford), a detective who’s been assigned to solve the crime. After suspect lineups and mug-shot books yield nothing, Samuel, in the most memorable scene of the film, recognizes the murderer as a narcotics agent whose picture he sees in the precinct. Once Book realizes that the police chief is in on it, too, he whisks Samuel and Rachel back…

Reviews

Amazon.com

When Samuel (Lukas Haas), a young Amish boy traveling with his mother Rachel (Kelly McGillis), witnesses the murder of a police officer in a public restroom, he and his mother become the temporary wards of John Book (Harrison Ford), a detective who’s been assigned to solve the crime. After suspect lineups and mug-shot books yield nothing, Samuel, in the most memorable scene of the film, recognizes the murderer as a narcotics agent whose picture he sees in the precinct. Once Book realizes that the police chief is in on it, too, he whisks Samuel and Rachel back home to Amish country, where he himself goes into hiding as a plain Amish man. The juxtaposition between the life of the Amish and the violence of inner-city police corruption work surprisingly well for the story, and Kelly McGillis as the falling in love widow gives an almost perfect performance. Directed by Peter Weir, the film is extremely successful in drawing the viewer into its world and, accordingly, is immensely entertaining. The only thing that mars its polish is the one-dimensional, almost cartoonish handling of the upper-echelon police corruption—a subtler, more realistic treatment of this aspect of the story would have rendered the film near perfect. —James McGrath

Barnes and Noble

Continuing his ongoing fascination with outsiders and marginalized cultures, Australian director Peter Weir made a successful transition to American filmmaking with a boundary-stretching thriller. A Philadelphia detective (Harrison Ford) is forced to take refuge with an Amish family when a murder involving police corruption is witnessed by one of the community’s children (Lukas Haas). While the film’s opening and closing passages provide plenty of action and nail-biting suspense, the heart of the movie focuses on a touching romance between Ford, the awkward outsider, and Kelly McGillis, as an assured but lonely widow. Witness builds tension not only through its thriller plot but also by constantly playing off the natural conflict between modern society and the isolated, tradition-bound Amish. Thanks to Weir’s feeling for behavior and his inspired eye for landscapes, the film is strongest in passages involving silent actions and interactions, saving the dialogue for mere exposition. Beautifully photographed, with a moral and romantic depth rarely touched on in most suspense movies, Witness is one of those rare genre films that appeals equally to both male and female audiences. Amy Robinson

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