“Witness” movie review

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When Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis), a young widow, and her young son, Samuel (Lucas Haas) take a trip to Philadelphia, their lives are forever changed. After Samuel witnesses a murder scene, he must help Detective John Book (Harrison Ford) find the man.

After Book becomes wounded during a confrontation, he must stay with Rachel and Samuel’s Amish family while recovering and remain hidden to keep the boy safe. During their time together, John and Rachel fall in love.

“Witness” is a 1985 film starring Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Danny Glover and Patti LuPone. Among it’s many nominations and wins, it was nominated for eight Oscars and won two for “Best Original Screenplay” and “Best Film Editing.”

Despite it’s high praise and becoming a hit at the box office after it’s fifth week in theaters, it was not a favorite among the Amish community due inaccuracy and fear of bringing in more tourists to their location. The movie was boycotted upon its release, which caused Pennsylvania governor, Dick Thornburgh, to make an agreement to never promote Amish communities in the future.

This was Harrison Ford’s big break out of the sci-fi/fantasy genre and he was nominated for his first and only Academy Award. At the time this was a new territory for him and fans who knew him as Han Solo and/or Indiana Jones. Many people on social media have said this to be some of his best acting.

The film has some humorous moments, such as when Harrison Ford was in an Amish outfit and the first time his character milked a cow. There were more funny moments, but these are the two that stood out. It helped that Ford made hilarious facial expressions when the situation called for it.

While the movie is filled with suspense, action and romance, it shows not only what it is like to be an outsider in a community different than your own, but also when two different worlds come together. One man is an independent detective from Philadelphia who brings in and carries a gun. The other is a non-violent and VERY religious group of people who live away from the big city, do not use modern technology and work together.

As a Christian who has learned about different denominations, it was nice to see John Book’s character development. At the beginning of the movie he looks baffled and awkward the first time he sees Rachel and Samuel pray over a meal and then at the film’s climax he appears to have an understanding of the religion.

It does not take long for John and Rachel to fall for each other, however, it is forbidden because of her belief and customs. Despite their differences, they have some very cute moments. My favorite part in particular is the dancing scene, it is very sweet and shows John’s fun side. Harrison Ford can sing a bit too. Who knew?

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There was one moment in the film that crossed a line for me. It was a rather intimate scene between John and Rachel as he watched her through a window while he was outside and their eyes meet. As powerful as it was meant to be, it made him look like a stalker.

The acting was phenomenal and and the story had a great buildup with powerful moments. I loved seeing Patti Lupone (original “Les Misérables” London cast) in the film almost as much as I enjoyed watching a young Harrison Ford in what is known as one of his best performances.

The ending was not what I expected, and I am usually pretty good at predicting those. It was more realistic compared to most Hollywood romance films. I would highly recommend it if you are a fan of thrillers, romance or just Harrison Ford movies in general. Catch it on Netflix while you can.

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39 thoughts on ““Witness” movie review

  1. I remember seeing it in the original theatre release – Ford really doesn’t work in romance stories and tends to be lead adventurer. more of a man’s actor than a woman’s really.

    Mosquito Coast also…

    • I saw Ford in “Six Days, Seven Nights,” which was an okay movie. I tried and failed to finish “Hollywood Homicide.” He’s a fantastic actor and I heard he did a great job in other films besides “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones.” I love him in the two franchises and I keep wondering where his Oscar is from other films he’s done.

      • I think it was the Roman Polanski one he did, it was one of the few with him married, but his wife is kidnapped for most of the movie.

        I am pretty sure Ford only agreed to do Han Solo if the character died in the most recent Star Wars.

        I got bored of the Blockbusters a while ago and that whole nuking the fridge replacing jumped the shark, now that we’ve hit peak CGI, maybe we can have character movies again.

        we certainly need more movies to teach people to cope than to adventure.

      • Yeah, I read something about Ford wanting Han to die back in ESB, but George said no. Ford said in an interview he wanted the charter to die in a way that meant something. Well, JJ gave him what he wanted.

      • Yes, it was the only really good scene..

        I saw Star Wars when it opened in theatres, Empire and Jedi, I skipped the prequels and this new star wars was a lot like Bridesmaids – focus on the off character in a more tradition tale to provide the twist.

        it was boring and very graphic novel cinamatography and I am glad we’ve hit peak CGI tech. From Starman’s silver sphere to the water effects of The Abyss to the metal liquid of The Terminator, to now, the reimaged wicked witches movies with the glittery metalic liquid f/x

      • I hated that Han died, but Harrison wanted it to happen. Ford did a great job acting wise and Mark Hamill(?) gave a powerful performance without saying a word.

        Props to Leia for being the strongest character in the entire franchise and a beautiful performance by Carrie Fisher. That character has gone through a lot.

        I noticed there were some similarities between TFA and the original trilogy/”Revenge of the Sith” and there were a few plot holes, but it was a great movie. I’m sure the next film will be just as good now that the new characters have been introduced.

      • honestly, I felt like I was watching a MiniPop Star Stars, it felt like a tired reboot and they didn’t even make toys of the lead female character, so it was disappointing in a lot of ways.

        Also, it’s less a performance and more camera framing and the music score

        uninteresting new characters and far too little and too late of the classic characters.

        Star Wars suffers from 14 year boysyndrome and it is not at all science fiction, but space opera

      • well… more because he’s stuck in boy adventurer zipper gripper and doesn’t write science fiction. Star Wars is about magic, not technology

      • You can;t really cheer for the child when you know he’s gonna Darth Vader… apparently the hovercar race was lifted shot for from from Viva Las Vegas.

      • The new spin-off has a female lead and Rey was the lead in TFA, but I agree they need more women, especially since Leia was the only main female character in the OT. Hopefully we’ll see more female roles in the next two films.

      • unlikely. Men like to watch men adventures and women are the secondary niche – children are almost as one, since girls are used to watching boys on screen, whereas, boy don’t watch girl leads. the original ET script was about a girl finding the alien. Spielberg’s first change was to a boy

      • I think with Rey as the lead more girls will continue to watch SW, especially since there was a high demand on Rey toys after TFA’s release. I wasn’t a fan of SW until TFA came out and I just decided to go ahead and watch the OT and prequels. I didn’t watch TFA until it came out on DVD.

        I have a lot of friends who are SW fan and I was (and still am) a fan of “Doctor Who,” musicals, “Arrow,” “Jessica Jones,” “Harry Potter,” etc. Until I started watching SW, I didn’t get the hype. A lot of people were like, “You’ve never seen ‘Star Wars?!'” I know so many people who grew up watching it, but my parents didn’t like it, so.

      • I really don;t think star wars hold up, I am a minority, the last time I tried to watch the original, the acting was painful. what it is is a simple story of good vs evil, with archetypes rather than characters

      • That would be interesting. Though I heard JJ stated Rey’s parents won’t be in episode 8. I would love for her to be related to Obi-Wan if she isn’t a Skywalker.

      • Star Wars fans have had it rougher that Star Trek ones. I remember when George Lucas was talking about a 12 movie cycle, but the special effects took longer and actors age.

      • Yup. Lucas developed so much tech and spun off companies that eventyaly the Harry Potters movies were able to be made with teens having growth spurts.

        I like the later movies and guessing the shooting schedule by the performer’s constant height changes

      • It was supposed to be 3 movies for the clone wars, the three prequels, the original trilogy and then one afterwards. I am sure the whole thing got laid out over the comics and the various books and graphic novels, then there was the 2 ewok movies AHA I forgot those.

      • Harry Potter isn’t science fiction, it’s fantasy and it’s the rare movies that were better than the books – the movies being made for a general audience and not a tween/teen book market. so less Sweet Valley Hogwarts and more of the magical world, which was narnia and dungeons and dragons with the hook of everyone’s fantasy that they have wonderful real parents instead of the icky life

  2. it’s a dual fish out of water, 2 worlds collide, the ending was the only one possible. A rare movie where not giving the audience the lame ending they require

    this also rather ruined that Michael Douglas Clenn Close thriller – the original ending, she suicides and he goes to jail, which is what played in Japan, but for north american audiences, they did that stupid horror movie ending where the cheated on wife gets revenge instead of the cheating hubby getting his deserved commuppance

      • LOL There’s an actor named Anthony Ingruber who fans want to play a young Han for the spin-off film. He was in a 2015 movie with Harrison in a flashback sequence as Ford’s character.

      • Lucas has yet to live down the TV special of 1978 LOL – he should recut that with the extra footage from Star Wars that has still yet to show up.

        there was a plotline of a pal of Luke’s on tatoonine and that character shows up at the very end, but there were set up sequences done.

        weird how the original set is being buried in the desert and we get to watch archeology in action, how cities are abandoned and lost…

        from scific to applied sciences

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