Witness (DVD)

Community images

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...

> Show product information

86% positive

7 reviews from the community

Review of "Witness (DVD)"

published 12/09/2017 | 2mennycds
Member since : 28/08/2015
Reviews : 284
Members who trust : 72
About me :
Sorry for my temporary absence, busy!
Pro Different, gripping, well acted
Cons Love interest?! some cliches
Did you enjoy it?
Characters / Performances
Special Effects

"Bringing a killer to "Book""

Witness (DVD)

Witness (DVD)


~ ~ ~ FILM ONLY REVIEW ~ ~ ~


Let’s face it, murder/detective movies are ten a penny. The genre is still as popular as it was several decades ago, but the wealth of titles means that there aren’t many that stand out from the crowd. I think this is one of them.

Mrs M likes it because it features Harrison Ford, and a relatively young (at 60 years old, I count 43 as relatively young!) Harrison Ford, at that. I find his acting rather one-sided and type-cast, and am not convinced that his acting skills are particularly great.

This film ranks highly to me because its setting is very different. The bulk of the action takes place not in the usual big city, among skyscrapers, car chases on freeways, and seedy bars. Instead it takes place in the time-warp of an Amish community.

It isn’t just the case that this makes a change of scenic backdrop, though. The setting makes for some fascinating interactions of characters as two very different – even opposite – cultures confront each other.

Plot outline

To avoid spoiling watching this, I will keep this to a minimum, and confine myself to details that the DVD cover contains!

On his first ever trip outside his community with his mother, a young Amish boy, Samuel Lapp, witnesses a brutal murder. Police captain John Book is designated the investigating officer. The murder is narcotics-based, and it soon becomes clear that the boy and his mother are in danger.

Book takes them back to their home, but his own life is also in peril, and he is given refuge – and medical attention – by the Amish community.

How long will he be able to remain undiscovered? And how long will the community be willing to hide him? How will his attraction to the boy’s mother develop – and what consequences will they both face if it does?

The filming

As mentioned above, I do like the physical backdrop to this movie, with some very evocative shots and scenes. Some panoramic scenes work particularly effectively, and I feel that there is some good use of lighting.

I especially like the way that detailed shots of the railway station at Philadelphia are intermingled with the wide-eyed expression of the Amish boy, Samuel.

The acting

LUKAS HAAS (Samuel Lapp) To me, Lukas Haas carries the movie as the boy Samuel. His face has an appropriately innocent look, and at the right times he shows little emotion, whilst at others he comes across superbly as the wide-eyed child encountering a new world for the first time. He really does convince in his role.

KELLY MCGILLIS (Rachel Lapp, Samuel’s mother), to me, plays an equally convincing role. She conveys well her conflicting emotions – close identity with her tradition, a sense of indebtedness to Book, and an admiration for him that becomes an attraction. There are one or two occasions where I think she fails to convince. For example, at one point she retorts to her father’s warnings about how it would look to the community if her feelings for Book become apparent: “You shame yourself!” I feel that such disrespect for her father is most unlikely in her tradition. In fairness, though, this is down to the scrip, and not to her acting. She also conveys coyness convincingly, in my view.

HAARISON FORD (Captain John Book) is much as he is an any other movie. I don’t dislike him vehemently; I just find his acting skills limited and typecast. I feel overall, though, that he carries his role reasonably well. He’s worldly-wise but kind-hearted, gruff but tender, man of action, impulsive at times. He’s droll, too; when told that visiting tourists find the Amish quaint, he adds characteristically, “I can’t think why…”

BRENT JENNINGS delivers well in his role as role as Book’s police partner. So does JOSEF SUMMER as police chief Schaeffer. JAN RUBES gives a solid performance as Rachel’s father, Eli, and Alexander Godunov is sound as the Amish rival Daniel Hochleitner for Book’s affections for Rachel.

The script

I’ve already referred to one detail that I feel is unlikely, but on the whole, I don’t find much in the script to object to.

The plot

I can be a bit critical about credibility being stretched, much to Mrs M’s annoyance. By and large I feel – given that the whole premise of a city police captain being harboured by an Amish community is probably somewhat unlikely – that the plot generally works well.

Some of the “bad guys” are perhaps a little stereotyped, and details of the timing of the ending are slightly cliched, but I don’t find much to spoil my enjoyment of the movie.Similarly, Ford's character has few blemishes, if any - a little simplistic!


I’m rarely conscious of a soundtrack unless it’s particularly excellent or annoying. I do feel that the soundtrack of this movie contributes well to its atmosphere; it seems to evoke the “romance” of the simplicity of the Amish lifestyle, and I think it works especially well when set against the single-day erection of a wooden barn by the whole community.

Overall comments

I rate this movie 4 stars, I think it makes for an enjoyable and gripping watch, it’s different, and although it predictably has a love interest, it’s a love interest set in a conflict of culture. There are some moving moments, too, perhaps especially at the end when Eli Lapp (Rachel’s father) and Daniel (Rachel’s suitor) bid Book farewell.

I also appreciate the way that the Amish are portrayed in an empathetic, dignified manner. I do find it an annoying cliche that Christian churches and individuals are so often portrayed as harsh bigots or as hiding some dark, sinister secret. I know that such portrayals have some justification, but the way it is generalised does irritate me.

Although this is a FILM ONLY review, Amazon sell it in Blu-Ray for £12.00 and DVD from £3.99; I can’t find it on Zavvi, or on base.com


Directed: Peter Weir
Produced: Edward S Feldman
Music: Maurice Jarre
Released: 1985 (US)
Cert: 15 (violence, partial nudity, strong language)

Community evaluation

This review was read 134 times and was rated at
72% :
> How to understand evaluation of this review

Comments on this review

  • elwood_jones published 08/10/2017
    Always been curious about this one - very helpful review
  • euphie published 25/09/2017
    e :o)
  • jb0077 published 16/09/2017
  • Did you find this review interesting? Do you have any questions? Sign into your Ciao account to leave the author a comment. Log in

Most popular similar products

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