Witness (1985)

Film or TV

Witness (1985) is a film starring Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Lukas Hass and directed by Peter Weir. The plot for Witness is deceptively a simple one. It is about a young Amish boy who witnesses a murder at a Philadelphia train station. Detective John Book as portrayed by Harrison Ford, is assigned the homicide case. Turns out a cop was murdered and he has a single eye-witness who saw the killer. Kelly McGillis plays Rachel Lapp. She’s the mother of Samuel (Lukas Hass), the little boy who saw the crime. Rachel’s just lost her husband and was traveling to Baltimore to see her sister. Now her son is involved in a homicide investigation.

While Samuel is at police headquarters, looking through pages of possible suspects, he looks up and spots a photo of a police officer and it turns out to be the same man he saw kill another cop. Book immediately shares this information with another cop and that turns out to be a mistake. Soon he finds himself being targeted and he gets shot. He picks up Rachel and Samuel from his sister’s apartment in the middle of the night and takes them back home, telling them ominously that there won’t be a trial. As he leaves, his car veers off the road and he is taken in and taken care of by Rachel’s family.

Much of the film shows Book trying to blend into the Amish community while he recuperate from his gunshot wound. Meanwhile, back in Philly, he only has one other ally in helping him gather the facts around the killing of another cop. Book knows that Samuel is in danger if their enemies track them down. Since the Amish shun much of the modern-day technology and don’t own a phone they are pretty hard to track down. The scope of the investigation into the murder of the policeman goes deeper that Book realized. We’re talking corrupt police officers within the department and with him being the only honest cop left.

Meanwhile, a romance slowly develops between Book and Rachel. It was sweet, the attraction both have for one another. I really enjoyed the quiet moments of the film and getting a brief glimpse at what life is like living in the Amish community. I remember being quite fascinated and thinking to myself: I couldn’t live like this.*lol* It was fun watching Rachel being courted by another gentleman from the Amish community while she is secretly longing for Book. There’s a scene where Rachel is bathing and it’s storming outside. He sneaks over and watches her bathe and she turns around and the two of them look straight at each other. Talk about an electrically charged scene. The two say nothing out loud to each other but they silently communicate with one another. Book reluctantly turns around and leaves. The next morning he goes looking for her and says:

If we’d made love last night I’d have to stay. Or you’d have to leave.

The ending wasn’t a disappointment with the climatic showdown with the bad guys and of course that last kiss goodbye between Book and Rachel. Witness is one of my favorite movies and one I re-watch every year. I think this is only movie that Harrison Ford was nominated for a Best Acting Oscar and he deserved it too for his work in this movie. There are a few humorous moments in here with Rachel putting his bullets in the flour can. Or the scene where Book goes into town and a tourist tries to take his picture:

John Book: Lady, you take my picture with that thing and I’m gonna rip your brassiere off… and strangle you with it! You got that?
Tourist Lady: [in disbelief, to no one in particular] Did you hear what that Amish just said to me?

Many memorable moments in this movie. Have you seen it too?

All quotes come from IMDb

The Author

I love reading crime fiction.

6 Comments

  1. I loved this movie, too. Did you catch Viggo Mortensen in a very brief role (one shot I think, in a wagon)? I think it was his first screen role – he played the brother of the man they built the house for, if memory serves. This film transcends the generations – usually my daughters refuse to watch any film I recommend as having liked when I was their age, but this one they did like!

  2. I know I often said this, but I think it’s worth repeating: ‘Witness’ is partly based on category romance novelist Pamela Wallace’s unpublished category romance, meant for Silhouette Special Edition. Quite a few of her other category romances were made into TV films as well.

  3. Bev Stephans says

    I too, loved this movie. Thanks for reminding me of what a good film it is. I had a VHS tape, but I think I’ll get it in a DVD.

    Enjoy your time off!!!!

  4. That was some great stuff! but could any of you help me with reasons why john book should not be allowed to stay in the Amish community

    • The Amish are a tight-knit Christian community who shun many of the modern day technology and embrace plain living. This is a different world for Book and one that he likely didn’t want to join and even if he wanted to I don’t think that he could.

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