Witness (DVD)

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Witness (DVD)

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...

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86% positive

7 reviews from the community

Review of "Witness (DVD)"

published 27/03/2016 | IzzyS
Member since : 27/07/2006
Reviews : 738
Members who trust : 195
About me :
Thanks for all rates. Let me know if I dont re-rate you - I will rectify it ASAP. My thoughts go to all affected by the recent tragedies.
Pro Tense/suspenseful, Sam, covers good thematic ground,
Cons Cheesiness, Harrison Ford, dated soundtrack
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"Part Amish Moral Tale, Part Crime Thriller - A Thoughtful Film"

- Story -

A young Amish boy, travelling with his mother to visit relatives in another state, goes to use the toilet in a train station in New York and accidentally witnesses a murder. Policeman John Book from the NYPD has to keep the son and his mother safe, after her manages to identify the man he saw attacking the victim and thus John ends up hiding with others in the rural Amish community to try and stay under the radar until the trial.

Will the Amish allow him to lie low in their area? how safe are mother and son really and will the perpetrator be brought to justice? you'll have to watch the film to find out.

- More Info., Thoughts & Opinions -

This is a film I saw after my mum recommended it, after it was mentioned on a TV quiz show. I've seen a few documentaries about the Amish community in the US and found it quite interesting, so I thought I'd give this a go. From close to the start, I felt quite attached to the young son, as he appears so almost cherubic, a pre-pubescent young boy unfamiliar with the ways of modern Western society, fully reliant on his mother to guide him, he appears quite bewildered and fearful at times. He's a fast thinker though.

While the plot isn't what I'd call brilliant, in as much as its a bit cliched, not entirely original and could possibly be seen as racist by some(?), I thought it contained some good dialogue, with the film in general covering themes of (among others) multiculturalism, trust and infiltration.

If I wasn't sure about any of the characters (in terms of how they come across on screen), I'd have to say it was the main cop character, John Book, played by Harrison Ford. I felt that his acting was a bit wooden in parts, with him not seeming to be as emotionally invested in the characters as the dialogue may make you believe. Of course he is meant to represent the more cynical side to modern Western civilisation but something about his performance didn't quite ring true for me.

I thought it was quite fascinating to see the scenes with the various Amish elders explaining (or attempting to explain) to Sam the significance of what he'd seen, the situation he's in and how dangerous some of John's paraphernalia is. The Amish community come across as understandably cautious of those not from their society but also quite humble and quite protective people. Often the Amish community is poked fun of in their depictions on TV shows, judging from the few I've casually come across, like 'Amish In The City' which depicts a number of Amish people who are allowed to stay in NYC, the first time their allowed to spend time outside of their own community and their suddenly given an obvious big culture clash but there's undoubtedly a naff aftertaste to that show and other similar ones. I liked this film as it treated the subject quite respectfully, so I feel anyway.

While this is clearly a crime drama, or it certainly has crime drama elements to it, its also regarded as a thriller but yet I wouldn't say that this film has a particularly fast pace to it. As the story unfolds not far after the start, in which Sam unwittingly becomes witness to the brutal murder, the pace is understandably quite fast and it does have quite a good sense of suspense but later on, the plot pace slows down, yet I still found it quite watchable, indeed engrossing. I find it interesting to see depictions of foreign cultures, to get a look (whether (part) fictionalised or via documentaries) at how others live and see things, in their part of the world and it did feel like this film gave at least a basic insight in to the world of the Amish. It made me wonder if a lot of violence that occurs in our society could be avoided, as certainly the Amish people seem to live a much less confrontational life, a more peaceful and 'wholesome' life, so it appears anyway. One thing I was totally unaware of, was that they seem to have their own language, other than English, although they appear fluent in English too.

Cast wise, Harrison Ford aside, the cast includes Kelly McGillis who plays the Amish mother, Rachel - a quite headstrong individual and a loving mother. The son, Samuel, is played by Lukas Haas, his performance being particularly notable (in my view anyway). Also present is Danny Glover (of Lethal Weapon fame), who plays McFee.

Content wise, this film does feature some moderate, bloody violence, gunshots are heard and injuries shown, plus of course strong language, hence the 15 rating it carries.

The musical score is very noticeably 1980s, which is of little surprise given the film dates from 1985(!) what I mean is that muzack played in the background during some scenes is a bit distracting and sounds rather dated - think light electronic pieces, generally quite uplifting sounding pieces but they do sound quite cheesy nowadays, having an almost ethereal, tubular bells type sound to it at times.

Its an interesting film of two halves (one part being quite fast paced and engrossing, the other slow and intriguing) and it isn't without its cheesiness 'factor', you could say. I thought it was overall quite pleasant, covering some pretty serious and important moral ground and with one or two great performances, though I wasn't overly impressed with Harrison Ford in this particular film. I think he probably does better in the more straight drama/thrillers like The Fugitive etc.

It is quite tense and suspenseful and I thought it was a pretty decent watch, given when it dated from (the mid 1980s, of course). It may not be an entirely spectacular film but its not too bad regardless.

- Would I Recommend It? -

Yes I'd recommend this, as long as your not exclusively looking for a fast paced crime/thriller, as this is fairly slow going mid-way through. The film covers some important moral ground and isn't unnecessarily long drawn out at about an hour and fifty minutes. I found the character depictions to be pretty good, particularly that of Rachel and Sam and I thought it was fairly engrossing for the duration. It is rather cheesy and the plot isn't entirely new, or certainly some aspects of it aren't but I've definitely seen worse films, so this is somewhere in the middle between ok and quite good, I'd say.

- Availability -

If your interested in seeing this, you can buy it on DVD for £22.00 at Amazon UK via a marketplace seller, at time of publishing this review (late March 2016).

- Final Note / Thank You -

Thank you for reading my review, I hope you found it useful and thanks, as ever, for any and all rates and comments.

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Comments on this review

  • justarube published 05/09/2016
    VH review x
  • Chippytarka published 05/05/2016
    Nicely reviewedx
  • Secre published 17/04/2016
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Product Information : Witness (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

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 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