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Witness More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A first-a one off

Author: alicespiral from Blackpool England
27 February 2007

I don't think there's been a movie before which was set in an Amish community so this was well researched. There's always an air of mystery about things Amish-people who shun the centuries after the 18th-its probably the closest thing to an Ideal World and this movie shows how the Amish are more or less forced into knowing of the Evil in it because of the boy who witnessed a murder. The Amish live their lives away from 90% of the World but do nevertheless do business in it such as buying supplies from the nearest town or even using a telephone if they need to do.There are also other branches of he Amish like the Mennonites who accept technology to an extent. Their power comes from Generators and music is used mostly accapella singing of hymns-instruments are never played in public only in the Community and are usually harmoniums and accordeons.Thus the background music would have been more appropriate if it had been of this kind. One of the lines you notice in the movie-after Ford has clocked the thug-is somebody remarks-"this will spoil the tourist industry" This is something the Amish don't directly benefit from but tourists are welcome to visit one of the communities to observe their way of life and they can buy from the gift shops-which is a source of income and its there because people want this sort of stuff. In fact there's now websites you can buy from-again not run by the Amish but there's probably an agreement to license products like models of horses and buggys or even CDs of genuine Amish hymn singing. Very recently the theme of this movie has taken on a kind of reality when there was a fatal shootout at an Amish school and obviously the police had to become involved

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A wonderful movie (sorry for the cliche)

Author: jbuck_919 from Bamberg, Germany
7 June 2002

I write this comment partly in response to the serious but overblown and slightly unfair currently featured comment, with all respect to the author who made the effort.

This movie is masterful in every sense. Does anyone know how hard it is to do a movie that involves another language (correctly done) and another culture? Kelly McGillis actually impersonated an Amish woman to prepare for this (I guess she had to give up smoking for a while). The people she lived among quite correctly were offended by this intrusion on their privacy.

Sorry, I should not have gone that way. The peripheries of the careers of the stars are irrelevant to an artistic production like this. The only thing that bothered me the first time I saw it was the ambiguous "run together and kiss" scene between the leads. In retrospect, it is a triumph of good editorial sense.

This movie only lacks credibility if you've never lived in Pennsylvania. I don't think "Ford, McGillis, and Hass," I think real characters in a real but very dramatic story. One of the finest movies I have ever seen.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

One of Harrison Ford's finest performances...

Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
25 June 2001

Harrison Ford finally got an Oscar nomination for 'Witness' ('85) only to lose it to William Hurt (for 'Kiss of the Spider Woman'). Likewise, the film was nominated but came along in the same year that 'Out of Africa' swept most of the awards.

The film itself begins to build suspense from the start, with the Amish boy (Lukas Haas) witnessing a murder in a men's restroom at a railroad station. Later, when Ford (as a tough policeman) questions the boy, he discovers there is corruption among his colleagues and becomes a cop in hiding while protecting the boy. The plot develops rather slowly after the initial murder as we focus more on Ford's relationship with the boy's mother (Kelly McGinnis). The interplay between Ford's character and the Amish woman is nicely developed, as is Ford's relationship with the boy. Before the conclusion, there is a scary scene in a silo that is milked for maximum suspense.

Beautifully photographed to take advantage of its country settings, the screenplay and editing both received Oscars. Absorbing and thoroughly deserving of its Best Picture and Best Director (Peter Weir) nomination. Definitely Harrison Ford's best role until 1993's 'The Fugitive' in which he had an even stronger character to portray as a doctor seeking to prove his innocence.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

elegiac, romantic crime-thriller about a detective in Amish country

Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
28 April 2008

The Amish are 'simple folk', as they say, with a moral conscience that is nearly impeccable. While they are super religious (notice that they will never eat without first praying), their work ethic is next to extraordinary and they've fashioned their lives around a lack of technology, a distance from the rest of the modern world. Peter Weir's film Witness does what should be expected in a genre piece using this subject matter: place a regular guy (Harrison Ford) in the midst of this Amish world as a culture clash occurs. It sort of does, but what's trickier, and what Weir and Ford pull off, is to make it personal, of the disconnect between men and women and temptations. It's an R-rated movie, but not at all for sex, but at the same time there's a super hot scene where Ford dances with Kelly McGillis's Rachel in a barn to an old 60s tune. The tension is perfect.

But the genre? Yes, it's the sort that we've probably seen in other films, with a corrupt cop story pitted into a unique location. The difference is that Weir wants to put a more visual take on things, to not force the conventions down the audience's throat while also making things enjoyable. The scoop: a young Amish boy (Lukas Haas) is with him mother on their way to Baltimore to visit family, and he is in the bathroom of the train station. He witnesses behind a closed door a murder take place between cops. He narrowly escapes, and is the only witness to the crime. He spots the man, and it becomes clear that the case is a lot dirtier than Ford's John Book would've imagined. With this premise, and that Book is shot and must stay put in Amish country for a bit, Weir explores the nature of the characters in this situation as opposed to the by-the-numbers plotting of the story, which are (thankfully) darker than one might usually expect.

And a good deal of Witness's success is Ford in the role. He strips himself of most of his devices as a usual star (i.e. from the sarcastic tone of Han Solo or swagger of Indiana Jones), but still has a great 'star' presence; the producer initially cast him as he reminded him of Gary Cooper. He's charming and suave, but usually understated and strong in the performance, finding the right notes with McGillis for a romantic drama of this sort. It's worth checking out Witness for certain if you're a fan, or if you're interested in seeing this strange but sort of beautiful other world. Oddly enough, the musical score sounds a lot at times like that of Blade Runner (the Vangelis-type synthesizer), and it threw me off for a moment hearing those tones put to the film's picaresque scenes. And yet there's something to be said about this kind of being like something from another world, or at least another time.

Witness is thrilling stuff for the mainstream crowds, and at the same time Weir's direction is something not to miss, where he provides ample control for the story, but gives it certain twists and with a loom that tells of something more purely cinematic than a standard cineplex offering.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

As 80s thrillers go it's pretty smart.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
4 March 2008

The formula of this thriller {/Drama} is not {was} new or even flag bearing as regards action set pieces and hide behind your hands suspense, yet it is still one of a kind for the genre and the decade it came from .

The plot is cracking as it involves a central theme of outsiders who are considered outside of the mainstream norm. To have a thriller involving the Amish community not only brings into focus how different folks beliefs can be, but to also hit home at just how ignorant many are to the ways of minorities and what they stand for. So many great things about the movie stand out, Harrison Ford is perfect, yes it's a perfect performance, his John Book is gruff and rugged yet as the story moves on he nails the endearment and knowing traits that the character calls for. Kelly McGillis is an actress who I feel drags down nearly all the films she leads in, yet here I forgive her because she is marvellous as Rachael, an Amish woman fighting her inner feelings as much as she is the bad outside world that wants to hurt her son.

Peter Weir IMHO is one of the most under praised modern day directors around {yes even now}, and here his deft hands put the story together adroitly, whilst John Searle's cinematography is gorgeous and out of the top draw. It's an almost perfect movie as regards acting and the process of making a film, I do however fly in the face of popular opinion as regards the score, it doesn't work for me i'm sad to say, Maurice Jarre's drawn out synth seems to me out of place for the piece we are watching, I personally would of liked a more subtle string arrangement, but that is me.

For those looking for a first time viewing in the Drama/Thriller genre can do no worse than seek this one out, because it's put together so well, it delivers on a plot front, and the ending doesn't pander to studio yearnings, 9/10.

The S/E DVD has a wonderful making of feature that is crammed full of quality input, and for Ford worshippers such as I, it contains none aloof input from the legend himself, that alone was worth the 5 Euros it cost me for this cracking film .

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Probably Harrison Ford's best work

Author: DarthBill from United States
9 April 2004

"Star Wars" made Harrison Ford the matinee idol of the late 70s and early 80s with his sardonic wit, good looks, and forceful presence. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" hinted that he could carry a film without playing a smart ass. "Witness" proved he deserved our respect and movie stardom because it showed that he could be interesting without being the midst of lots of action.

Ford is Chicago Detective John Book, assigned to investigate a murder that was committed by crooked cop Danny Glover. The only witness is the son of an Amish widow, played by Kelly McGillis. When Book gets too close to the truth, the crooked cops try to kill him, forcing Book to take it on the lamb and hide out in the Amish country. There, he slowly makes a transition into their society, their way of life, and of course, he starts to fall for Kelly McGillis.

Ford himself has rarely been better in any of his other films. Here he perfectly displays the quiet, easy going, go-about-my-business attitude that we associate with the everyman character, and it is this appeal that has led to Ford's lasting success. This is also the only film Ford has ever received a nomination for best actor, but he lost out that year to the guy from "Kiss of the Spider-Woman". Damn shame, really.

Kelly McGillis holds her own admirably as the Amish widow who wins Ford's heart.

Alexander Godunov, who later played the murderous Karl in "Die Hard", makes his debut here as an Amish farmer who is, alas, Ford's romantic rival for Kelly. Also making his debut here is a much younger Viggo Mortensen as another Amish father. Mortensen's barely recognizable here, making his eventual success as Aragorn in "Lord of the Rings" all the more ironic.

Well crafted, well directed, well made film by Australian director Peter Weir.

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7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

The "Big City" as dirty and corrupt...the Amish as waxworks saints

Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
20 November 2010

An Amish youngster, away from the family farm in Lancaster County for the first time while visiting Philadelphia, witnesses a men's room killing, the victim a police officer; a good-hearted cop smells corruption and goes into hiding to help protect the child, falling in love with the boy's mother in the process. When "Witness" originally played in theaters, so much promise was built up by the intriguing scenario--and so much good will was brought forth by the combination of Harrison Ford in the lead and the fish-out-of-water story elements--that nobody seemed to mind when the film derailed near the end. Corny and clichéd throughout, the picture still manages to make a direct connection with its audience, and shameless director Peter Weir mounts the proceedings for emotional impact. It works most of the time. ** from ****

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Ford At His Best

Author: Predrag ( from Serbia
5 May 2016

Although I suppose "Blade Runner" is the movie that showed Harrison Ford could do something outside of "Star Wars", I personally think "Witness" was one of the most important movies of his career, because it's a complete departure from a science fiction storyline, and therefore paved the way for all the Tom Clancy stuff and other movies that featured him as a romantic hero. Featuring a rich, startling performance from Ford and a powerful turn by Kelly McGillis (who had only appeared on "One Life to Live", a TV movie and the marvelous film "Rueben, Rueben" at that point in her career) "Witness" still manages to amaze with the suspense that Weir generates in the film.

The contrast between the gritty urban police precinct and the bucolic Amish farm country is one of the best things about the film. Book dressed in a blue shirt and black trousers several inches too short for him, looking like the proverbial fish out of the water, is a sight to behold. All of a sudden he's back in the nineteenth century -- no electricity, no cars, no TV or computers. He might as well be on another planet. And the Amish are as different from him as space aliens; gentle, quiet pacifists, hardworking and industrious, intent on keeping the outside world as far from them as possible. They are neighborly and cooperative; the barn-raising scene is inspiring to watch. We feel sympathy for these quiet, decent people as the outside world keeps encroaching, and see them trying to navigate a horse and buggy on the Interstate. Book has to try to fit into this world, and he gives it his best shot. He joins in the barn-raising, does odd chores around the farm. But the Amish, while they respect his abilities, hold him at arm's length. For one thing, he's falling in love with the young widow Lapp, whose feeling for him is mutual. For another, his assimilation is only skin-deep; on a trip into town, when a group of local louts start pestering the Amish, Book chips in with a right to the lout's nose that leaves his face a bloody mess. It's going to prove his undoing; back in his precinct, the narcotics agent and the captain have gotten wind of his hideout, and now they come to shut him up once and for all, and silence Samuel as well. 'Witness' is not an action/adventure blockbuster like the movies that made Ford a household name, but it doesn't need pyrotechnics to stand out. It's a well-crafted, well-acted, eminently satisfying movie.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A Visionary Film with Details Not To Be Taken For Granted

Author: frogsaroyan
18 December 2014

It is easy to see why Witness took home the Oscar for Best Screenplay. In the first 15 minutes, fewer than 20 lines are spoken, and they are all inconsequential. Even the first full line of the line of the film spoken by a recurring character is just a joke about a horse's prowess. Nothing is said, and yet everything is so clear. Too clear. We see everything and feel everything, just like the boy. It takes a very good screenplay to say so much with next to nothing.

The scenes where Samuel takes the train and wanders through the station could be its own short film... "Amish Boy Takes The Train." I don't think that these moments, and the beautiful shots of Pennsylvania country, should be taken for granted. This film was made with care. I believe it's a visionary film, and I was transfixed. It is a film about a boy, as the title suggests, not about Harrison Ford. Samuel is part angel, witnessing the deeds of humanity, and he is human, witnessing how we share our sins. We learn from this boy, as do the other characters.

The most important detail is this... the little boy witnessed a murder. This isn't something that will go away for him or be given compensation. Some reviewers have said they don't like how certain scenes and characters appear smarmy. Well, to a little boy with innocence, any person who doesn't have the highest personal integrity and truthful intentions appears smarmy. The murder itself is messy and mean, because that's what most murder is. It isn't some slick and stylish operation carried out by highly intelligent hit men.

About the music. It sounds like the score by Maurice Jarre was influenced largely by Aaron Copland. Jarre was regularly hired for visionary films; ones with a "person who sees the value in what other people don't" theme like Gorillas In The Mist and Dead Poets Society, or ones with religious themes like Almost An Angel and Witness, or supernatural themes like Ghost and Jacob's Ladder (and Prancer!). The synthesizer is dated, yes, and therefore it's slightly unnerving, but if taken at face value and in context you can hear the "otherworldly" effect that Jarre is going for. It is music for strings, but airing in sampled sounds... so what you hear are the ghosts of the strings, the echo, the strings reincarnated. It's eerier. Besides that, the music is complex, sophisticated, and it's front and centre. It isn't in the background, nor should it be. I believe that for the average moviegoer who doesn't regularly enjoy listening to a variety of orchestral music, the score might seem like "too much" and therefore distracting. It's too bad that some people can't admit that complex orchestral music isn't too their taste, and instead they judge the music as "bad". It most certainly isn't bad. Perhaps in places it really is "too much", but there are places where the movie overall is too much, music aside. Easily forgiven.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Amish on Film!

Author: v_haritha_in from India
23 August 2014

An Amish boy, Samuel (Lukas Haas) witnesses the murder of a police officer. Officer John Book (Harrison Ford)is assigned to the case. His investigation leads to corruption and crime within the police force. His bosses want to silence him and he his forced to go into hiding in the Amish community.

The movie gets off to business with a gripping murder and Samuel's clever escape from being found by the killer. We get to see some cop work before going into the Amish community. What we see there is in complete contrast with the crime-riddled cop-world. I must say I do not know much about the Amish way of life and hence, I do not know how accurate its portrayal is in this movie. But, what we see is soothing. The people are close-knit, simple and have their own rustic charm. The verdant landscapes are beautiful. Book finds love in Samuel's widowed mother Rachael (Kelly McGillis). But, we are constantly reminded of the threat to Book and Samuel's lives.

The climax is once again intense to match the opening scene. There three memorable scenes in the movie; Samuel hiding from the killer in the toilet cubicles, the death of one of the bad guys and one where the entire Amish community comes forward to build a house for a newly-wed couple.

The acting is top-notch. Ford is unrecognizable from his Han Solo and Indiana Jones roles. Haas is cute and innocent looking. McGillis gives her best performance. The supporting cast playing the Amish are all likable, even the one playing Book's rival in love. The cinematography and the pacing of the movie add to the serene atmosphere. It is an under-rared gem.

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