Witness (1985) Review

Samuel a young Amish boy is the only witness to a murder he must be protected by Detective John Book, as the man murdered was an undercover police officer.


This event leads to corruption being highlighted within the police department as John and his partner Sergeant Elton Carter are the men who question Samuel. The boy could not identify the killer from any photos or line ups but he does later spot a newspaper clipping in the police station which just happens to name narcotics officer James McFee as the killer! This then creates a very difficult situation for John who now must protect Samuel to ensure his safety.

When disclosing this information to Chief of Police Paul Schaeffer he is told to keep it quiet but when he is then shot by McFee it is very clear that this corruption goes to the very top. He is left badly wounded in the car park, getting his partner to erase all information of the boy and mother he drives them himself back to their community. The blood he has been losing though is about to catch up to him when he passes out on the farm, this then leads to them helping him and pretty much hiding him until he builds his strength back up.

This is where the film takes a slightly different turn as we see John Brook the tough detective now get involved in Amish community life and take part in the simple tasks that they do to survive. It also highlights the abuse that they must put up with and tourists taking photos of them as if they don’t have any rights just because they want to live a carefree and different life. This actually creates some rather amusing and sweet moments as well, that was something I certainly was not expecting when I started watching the film so was a rather lovely surprise to the direction it took.

Samuel is very curious about John and everything about him, especially his gun! Which created a rather impressive scene about the bullets inside it. It was obvious that he was going to fall for Rachel and vice versa as you could just sense that intensity from the moment they both met. That was a nice little touch as well as a sub-plot as it doesn’t take over from everything else.

The film is part of the Best Picture Project having been nominated at the 1986 Oscars, this was something I did not actually realise when I watched the film so an added bonus to learn that now. Harrison Ford was also nominated for his performance and do you know what, he fully deserved that. I thought he was utterly fantastic in every possible way pulling so many different things into one role, the hardened detective, the love story, being a father like figure, standing up for the people and it really is well worth watching for Ford. I mean he is always good right? But in this one he is very good! Lukas Haas puts in a very impressive child performance and I always find that a fantastic thing to see in films, it is hard to get child characters right and to get performances that are impressive and not annoying, that is something Peter Weir managed to do so very well. Kelly McGillis was good in a supporting role. The smaller roles though I absolutely got a thrill from seeing Patti LuPone for a short period of time and then a rather young Viggo Mortensen! Oh and I almost forgot the evil Danny Glover performance!

I really could see myself watching this film again in the future, I am convinced that is one of the best compliments you can give to a film?

2 thoughts on “Witness (1985) Review

  1. Love love love this movie. One of my all time favourites, so a firm 5* (6*s!) for me. The barn building scene to Maurice Jarre’s epic score is awesome. If I drink a pint of squash while working in the garden on a hot day, I still have to do an exaggerated wipe of my mouth with the back of my hand!

    Liked by 1 person

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