Witness (1985)

Film review: Witness (1985), directed by Peter Weir

This movie was watched simply on the basis that it was directed by Peter Weir, and I wanted to see more of his work. In Witness, we follow the newly widowed Rachel (Kelly McGillis) and her 8-year-old son Samuel (Lukas Haas) who travel by train from their Amish home to the outside world, to see Rachel’s sister in Baltimore. When the train is delayed by three hours in Philadelphia, Samuel goes to the men’s room … and witnesses a brutal murder of a police officer.

Cue John Book (Harrison Ford), who interviews mother and son, and then tries to protect them, seeing as how the child is now a murder witness. However, things don’t exactly go to plan. As it turns out, the man Samuel saw in the rest room (Danny Glover) is a police officer, meaning he’s a bent cop … and when Book tells this theory to his superior (Josef Sommer), they end up running for their lives. Back to Amish country.

Shout out: Viggo Mortensen as a young Amish man. Who says little, if he speaks at all.

All I know about the Amish is that they’re a pretty big group of people who shun “fancy things like electricity” (yeah, basically, all I know about the Amish, I learned from Weird Al) and live like it was a few hundred years ago. I didn’t know they speak German a lot, but then, I’ve never done any research either – I’m sure it’ll come up straight away on Wikipedia. So, to see how they live and how their society works is fascinating. Not to mention envious, at times. Things were so much simpler back in those days. No, not easier, simpler. Let’s face it, isn’t that part of the appeal of 19th century literature?

How Amish ways and modern ways can clash, we see plenty of examples of, but it’s nice to see that Book actually tries to adapt to the new lifestyle, instead of just doing his own thing.

I’m a bit uncertain about the ending, because I expected one (obvious) thing, but I don’t think that’s how it actually ended. Unless I misunderstood something somewhere.

While the script had me hooked and I really enjoyed seeing it acted out on screen, the music score was distracting at times. The composer is Maurice Jarre (father of Jean Michel), who also worked with Weir on Dead Poets Society (mentioned twice in as many weeks now – it’s a SIGN!). While the music is emotive, it’s sometimes too invasive as well. But there you go. At least it’s a really good film, very touching. The silo bit aside, because that was a bit of a nightmare. Not a great way to go, put it that way.

4.2 out of 5 bird houses.

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