After an Amish boy witnesses police corruption in a Philadelphia train station, a hardened cop takes him and his widowed mother back to their quiet Am...
7 reviews from the community
Review of "Witness (DVD)"
'Witness' (1985) is a film directed by Peter Weir (Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show) that manages to be both a gripping thriller, a slow-burning romance, and an intelligent foray into religious beliefs and tolerance.
Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis) is a young Amish widow attempting a visit to her sister with her young son Samuel (Lukas Haas) in tow. Delayed at a train station, Samuel accidentally witnesses the murder of a cop. Reluctantly the Amish pair are drawn into the modern 'English' world of which they want no part as Samuel is required to identify the murderers. Part and parcel of this modern world is the streetwise detective John Book (Harrison Ford) whose casual approach to all the things that horrify Rachel illustrates the gulf between their two cultures.
As the film goes on Book is in turn reluctantly immersed in the Amish world. Through his eyes the audience begins to learn more about the Amish way of life: their beliefs, their moral convictions about right and wrong, their forbearance in the face of outsider's curiosity and insults, and, most touchingly, their strong sense of community. A tentative romance begins to burn between Rachel and Book, hampered by the gulf that still lies between the two very different lives they are used to leading. The climax of the film is Book's violent world crashing into the calm peace of the Amish in a tense showdown.
The film is stylistically very similar to Weir's later film 'Dead Poets Society' (1989) and also has the same sort of haunting, atmospheric soundtrack that definitely lingers in the memory. Ford and McGillis both turn in excellent, restrained performances in a film where more is got across in the silence between the two leads than if the gaps had been filled with unnecessary and tension-spoiling dialogue. Haas manages to avoid the usual cliches of a child actor and is very convincing. Josef Sommer is also good in a supporting role, and look out for a young Viggo Mortensen making a brief appearance as part of the Amish community.
The film also has a few deft comic touches that lighten the intense atmosphere, the best amongst these in my opinion being when Ford emerges in his borrowed Amish clothes.
The direction is intelligent, the acting superb, the script flawless and the story powerful. It is gripping right until the end and lingers in the memory. Most definitely worth the viewing time.
Product Information : Witness (DVD)
Manufacturer's product descriptionAfter an Amish boy witnesses police corruption in a Philadelphia train station, a hardened cop takes him and his widowed mother back to their quiet Amish community. There, hiding from his crooked superiors, he is witness to a simpler and seductively innocent world. Academy Award Nominations: 8, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor--Harrison Ford. Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing.
Listed on Ciao since: 24/06/2005