Witness is a movie that more than one screenwriter instructor has touted as one of the best written screenplays in film. It won Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards as well as the award for best film editing. Released in 1985, Witness is rated R.
John Book (Harrison Ford) is a police officer in Philadelphia. He and his partner are investigating the murder of a fellow police officer. The only known witness is a young Amish boy, Samuel (Lukas Haas). He and his widowed mother Rachel (Kelly McGillis) were waiting for a train when he unfortunately saw the deadly crime.
In order to protect young Samuel, the three flee to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to the German speaking farms of the Amish. The beauty of the countryside and the kind ways of the clan are expertly showcased.
John sustained a gunshot wound, and is nursed back to health by Rachel. An attraction soon develops. This is a common thing I’m sure, the bond that comes between patient and nurse. Some of the sweetest moments in the film are between the two of them, and Harrison Ford is in his prime for this film. Kelly McGillis is well cast as the sweet Amish woman just trying to protect her son.
I spotted a young Viggo Mortensen as one of the Amish, and Danny Glover is a police officer in Philadelphia. This is a great film in terms of suspense, and one of the reasons it is highly regarded by screenwriters. The action is slowly drawn out in so many scenes. We really get to stay with the emotions of the characters in everyday situations, in romantic encounters, and in terror filled chase scenes.
I didn’t miss the car chases and crashes that so often accompany films of today. In 1985, maybe there were fewer special effects, but even if they were available, I’m glad the filmmakers did not go that route. None are really needed in this story. But then the Amish are a simple group, choosing to live thoughtfully and peacefully on the earth, and shunning the violence that permeates so much of American culture.
Daniel (Alexander Godunov) is one of the Amish interested in Rachel. And yet there is no overt jealousy or threatening behavior between him and John. It’s a triangle for sure, but none of that macho man BS that goes on in modern society or on the screen.
I love this film. It has just the right amount of romance, drama, and crime solving throughout. Harrison Ford was nominated for Best Actor for his performance, and I really wish he had won. He is a good actor and this is one of his best roles. The film was directed by Peter Weir, also know for The Truman Show, The Way Back and many, many other great films (30 in all).
Witness would be a good date night movie, as there are plot situations both men and women would find entertaining. I hope you enjoy it together.