Witness (1985) starring Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Josef Sommer, Lukas Haas, Jan Rubes, Alexander Godunov, Danny Glover directed by Peter Weir Movie Review

Witness (1985)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Harrison Ford as John Book in Witness (1985)

The Book of Rachel

A young boy is a witness to a murder and when he identifies the murderer as being a narcotics cop the boy, his mother and the detective in charge of the case must go into hiding. That doesn't sound the most original of ideas in fact I can think of numerous cop, dramas which use a similar storyline but then that is what is sort of misleading about "Witness" because that is the set up which it uses. I say misleading because whilst "Witness" is book-ended by cop action what happens in between is more akin to a holiday romance where a detective hiding out with the Amish not only falls in love with the woman he is protecting but also the uncomplicated life style and finds himself torn. And it makes "Witness" a terrific movie, beautiful in look with wonderful performances from Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis which draws you into the romance.

Whilst waiting for their train in the city young Amish boy Samuel Lap (Lukas Haas) witnesses a murder in the toilets and he and his mother Rachel (Kelly McGillis - At First Sight) must help detective John Book (Harrison Ford - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) in his inquiries. When Samuel identifies the killer as a narcotics cop things get messy with John forced to take Rachel and Samuel back to the Amish community and hide out. But whilst there not only does John fall for Rachel who also falls for him but he also finds himself falling in love with the uncomplicated Amish lifestyle.

Kelly McGillis as Rachel in Witness (1985)

So as already mentioned "Witness" is book-ended by tradition cop thriller ideas, so we have the young boy who saw a murder, the need to go into hiding and then the inevitable resolution as John has to deal with the corrupt cops who track him, Rachel and Samuel down. By me telling you this isn't a spoiler because not only is this not the focus of the movie but it is also pretty obvious that at some point the dirty cops will find them. What I will say is that the ending to this is terrific with a touch of western about it but with a nice twist to not make just a cliche.

What this means is that the focus of the movie is on John hiding out in the Amish community and his growing feelings towards Rachel. So yes this makes it a romance but by no means some cheesy romance as what we also have is the simple fact that deep down John knows it can't work, he may love the simple Amish lifestyle but deep down he is a city cop where you don't turn the other cheek if you get hit. And that is a hint at an important scene because what we watch is John falling deeper and deeper in love with both Rachel and the lifestyle almost convincing himself that he could give everything up for it till something brings out the old John in him and he realises for sure that he can't give it up.

It is beautiful and director Peter Weir deserves credit for taking us into the world of the Amish and not making fun of their uncomplicated way of living. Yes we get humour as John initially struggles with the simple lifestyle giving us a hilarious cow milking scene but it is also respectful. In fact a scene where we witness a barn raising is magnificent and a shot of the men working as a team as they sit over the framework of the barn assembling it is simply awesome.

What is also awesome are the performances from all the cast but most significantly Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis. There is a real maturity to Ford's performance which allows for those occasional moments of humour from funny lines but more importantly he gets across the fact that John is falling in love with both Rachel and the uncomplicated life. It is restrained, sensitive and 100% believable which is the same with Kelly McGillis who as Rachel not so much flirts but makes it clear that she likes John yet does so in a respectful manner of her character.

What this all boils down to is that "Witness" is still a brilliant movie which as I said deals with a storyline which is akin to a holiday romance as John falls in love but knows he has to return to his normal life at some point.