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Witness (1985)

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A young Amish boy is sole witness to a murder; policeman John Book goes into hiding in Amish country to protect him until the trial.

Director:

Peter Weir

Writers:

William Kelley (story by), Pamela Wallace (story by) | 3 more credits »
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Popularity
2,924 ( 299)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 11 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Harrison Ford ... John Book
Kelly McGillis ... Rachel
Josef Sommer ... Schaeffer
Lukas Haas ... Samuel
Jan Rubes ... Eli Lapp
Alexander Godunov ... Daniel Hochleitner
Danny Glover ... McFee
Brent Jennings ... Carter
Patti LuPone ... Elaine
Angus MacInnes ... Fergie
Frederick Rolf Frederick Rolf ... Stoltzfus
Viggo Mortensen ... Moses Hochleitner
John Garson John Garson ... Bishop Tchantz
Beverly May Beverly May ... Mrs. Yoder
Ed Crowley Ed Crowley ... Sheriff
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Storyline

An 8 year old Amish boy and his mother are traveling to Philadelphia, on their way to visit the mother's sister. While waiting at the train station, the young boy witnesses a brutal murder inside one of the bathroom stalls. Police detective John Book is assigned to investigate the murder of the man, who was a undercover cop. Soon after, Book finds out that he's in great danger when the culprits know about his investigation and hides out in the Amish community. There, he learns the way of living among the Amish locals, which consists of non-violence and agriculture. Book soon starts a romance with the mother of the little boy, but their romance is forbidden by the Amish standards. But, it's not long before the bad guys find out Book's whereabouts. Written by blazesnakes9

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

amish | train | love | police | crooked cop | See All (85) »

Taglines:

8 year old Samuel: sole witness to a murder. Three killers who'll stop at nothing to silence him. One honest cop who'll give his life to save him... See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German

Release Date:

8 February 1985 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Called Home See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby (as Dolby Stereo)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Lynne Littman was originally in line to direct. See more »

Goofs

John Book's Volkswagen hit the birdhouse and broke its windshield. Later the car is seen in the barn with an unbroken windshield. See more »

Quotes

[Book, having just dropped off Rachel and Samuel back at Lapp's farm, is driving away when he convulses and passes out from loss of blood from an untreated gunshot wound and crashes into a birdhouse. Rachel and Samuel run out to Book]
Rachel Lapp: My God! Why didn't you get to a hospital?
John Book: [struggling] No, no hospital. Gunshot wound, they have to file a report. And if they file a report, they find me. And if they find me, they find the boy.
See more »

Crazy Credits

For Tom Scott. Scott was a member of the casting department on Witness. See more »

Alternate Versions

In the VHS version, just after John Book is shot, we see a close-up of his gun and a voice-over from an earlier conversation Book had with the captain. We hear the words: "Who else knows about this? "Just you and me." In the DVD version, we see the close-up of the gun and then it segues to Book's sister waking up Rachel and her son Samuel, minus the voice-over. See more »

Connections

References High Noon (1952) See more »

Soundtracks

(What a) Wonderful World
(1959)
Written by Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert and Lou Adler
Performed by Greg Chapman
Courtesy of Abkco Music, Inc.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
"We want nothing to do with your laws"
29 June 2008 | by ackstasisSee all my reviews

I daresay that I would have enjoyed 'Witness (1985)' even more had it remained a conventional mystery thriller. This, perhaps, reflects rather negatively on my film-buff credentials, but the film's opening act mounted the tension so brilliantly that it was a pity to see that suspense slowly dissipate into the background. Such an appeal, however, seems quite groundless where director Peter Weir is concerned; given my previous experience with his work, both in Australian cinema (the classic war picture, 'Gallipoli (1981)') and following his move to Hollywood (the uplifting 'Dead Poet's Society (1989)'), Weir has always favoured emotion and human interaction over the raw thrill of adrenalin-charged action. Even as it stands, 'Witness' deserves to be celebrated for its strong performances, sensitive screenplay and thoughtful exploration of the contrast between the pacifism of the Amish people and the violence and corruption of 1980s mainstream America. The film was Weir's first in Hollywood, after achieving great success with the Australian productions 'Gallipoli' and 'The Year of Living Dangerously (1982).'

Following the death of her husband, a grieving Amish woman, Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis), takes her young son Samuel (Lukas Haas) into the city. It is Samuel's first major venture into the lifestyle shunned by his people, and he is initially awed and excited by all the fresh sights and sounds presented to him. But it doesn't take long for the reality of modern society, corrupted and poisoned by the stench of greed and violence, to rear it's ugly head – in the bathroom of a railway station, Samuel witnesses the brutal murder of a city detective, and only he can identify the men responsible. A weary cop, Det. Capt. John Book (Harrison Ford), employs the young boy's help in solving the case, and, when Samuel positively identifies a respected narcotics detective from his own department, Book begins to understand that they've stumbled into something far deeper than anybody could ever have anticipated. Now with a price on his head, Book falls into hiding with the reluctant Amish community, and both parties come to learn a thing or two about the conflicting values of their respective worlds.

Harrison Ford has rarely given a better performance. He's not an actor whom one would typically associate with having a lot of emotional range, but John Book is an intriguingly-subtle character. Note, most particularly, the scene in which Book and Rachel dance in the barn to Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World" – throughout the entire sequence, Book is continually pausing, contemplating the physical contact that is seemingly obligatory in cinematic moments such as these, and consistently deciding against it. Kelly McGillis is remarkably beautiful as the emotionally-conflicted widow, all the more because her character actively attempts to repress any lingering streaks of eroticism (and also thanks to her Amish attire, which fortunately denied her one of those horrifically-dated 1980s hairstyles – see 'Top Gun (1987)'). A crucial benefit of the film's sobering middle act, supplemented by the soft, graceful cinematography of John Seale, is that the audience gradually loses his desensitisation towards violence on film, and so the story's brutal climax is a completely jarring shock to the nerves.


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