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Witness (1985)

4.6 out of 5 stars 453 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Witness (DVD)

When a young Amish woman and her son get caught up in the murder of an u ndercover narcotics agent, their savior turns out to be hard ened Philad elphia detective John Book. Harrison Ford is sensational as Book, the co p who runs head-on into the non-violent world of a Pennsylvania Amish co mmunity. The end result is an action packed struggle of life and death, interwoven with a sensitive undercurr ent of caring and forbidden love.

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Product Details

  • Actors: Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Danny Glover, Viggo Mortensen, Lukas Haas
  • Directors: Peter Weir
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • DVD Release Date: August 23, 2005
  • Run Time: 112 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (453 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00AEBB9UK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,298 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Wayne Klein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 14, 2005
Format: DVD
Made immediately after "The Year of Living Dangerously", "Witness" continued a winning streak for Australian director Peter Weir. His first "American" movie, "Witness" deals with the conflict between two cultures and, in a sense, two centuries as part of a much more conventional police drama about an Amish boy (Lukas Haas) who witnesses the murder of an undercover police officer in the men's room of a train station. His mother Rachel (Kelly McGillis) is traveling with the boy and both are drawn into the police investigation. What Detective Captain John Book (Harrison Ford) who is investigating the case doesn't realize is that someone is out to kill them both. As a result, Book goes undercover himself taking them back to the Amish community they come from and hiding out with them there until he can resolve who is trying to kill them.

Featuring a rich, startling performance from Ford and a powerful turn by Kelly McGillis (who had only appeared on "One Life to Live", a TV movie and the marvelous film "Rueben, Rueben" at that point in her career) "Witness" still manages to amaze with the suspense that Weir generates in the film. His focus on the contrasting cultural values of Book and the Amish community makes the film much more than a conventional "B" movie police crime drama adding depth and nuance to the film.

A much needed improvement over the previous edition of "Witness", this collector's edition looks sharp with vivid colors, sharp image quality and very few digital artifacts. Blacks are rock solid throughout. The original release was a non-anamorphic widescreen image and, as such, this anamorphic presentation is a huge improvement over the previous edition of the movie. The 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround mix sounds solid throughout.
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Format: VHS Tape
'Witness' is probably Harrison Ford's best film, and when it was released it showed him another facet of a gifted actor who until then had been known only to most moviegoers only as Han Solo and Indiana Jones. In 'Witness', Ford is police detective John Book, called to interrogate a terrified little Amish boy named Samuel Lapp, and his young widowed mother. An undercover cop has been killed in the men's room at the railroad station, and Samuel, hiding in a stall, is the only eyewitness. Samuel is unable to identify the perp from the usual log of suspects; but there he is, posted prominently on the precinct bulletin board -- a decorated narcotics agent. When Book relates his findings to the police captain, he ends up getting shot himself -- seems the captain is in on it as well. With the captain, the narcotics agent, and a third dirty cop gunning for him, Book needs a place to hide, and what better place than the Lapp house deep in Amish country?

The contrast between the gritty urban police precinct and the bucolic Amish farm country is one of the best things about the film. Book dressed in a blue shirt and black trousers several inches too short for him, looking like the proverbial fish out of the water, is a sight to behold. All of a sudden he's back in the nineteenth century -- no electricity, no cars, no TV or computers. He might as well be on another planet. And the Amish are as different from him as space aliens; gentle, quiet pacifists, hardworking and industrious, intent on keeping the outside world as far from them as possible. They are neighborly and cooperative; the barn-raising scene is inspiring to watch. We feel sympathy for these quiet, decent people as the outside world keeps encroaching, and see them trying to navigate a horse and buggy on the Interstate.
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Format: DVD
Although I suppose "Bladerunner" is the movie that showed Harrison Ford could do something outside of "Star Wars", I personally think "Witness" was one of the most important movies of his career, because it's a complete departure from a science fiction storyline, and therefore paved the way for all the Tom Clancy stuff and other movies that featured him as a romantic hero.

Here he plays John Book, a police detective who has to interrogate a small Amish boy who is the only witness to a brutal murder in a train terminal washroom. When the boy makes an ID that implicates a respected fellow police detective, Book gets wounded, but realizes that he must get the boy and his widowed mother (Kelly McGillis) back to the Amish country and go underground. Thus, much of the movie concerns itself with the fish out of water experience he has, trying to pass as an Amish man, learning about their life and falling in love with the boy's mother. This is dangerous territory for her, as her father-in-law warns her that if she steps out of line, she will be shunned by her community. And then of course, the corrupt police have been looking for Book and the boy, remember. Final showdown is about as you would expect it, and glad to have it so. One interesting note is the pretty good performance by Alexander Godonoff, the defected ballet dancer, as a jealous suitor of Kelly McGillis. Too bad he died so young; he might have branched into a whole new career here.
I hadn't seen this for many years before finding it among the tapes at a bed and breakfast place last summer. I was pleased to find it as enjoyable today as it was years ago, and my friend who had never seen it was enthralled, as you would be, too.
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