• 15
  • Peter Weir (1985)
  • US
  • 107 min
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Film Review
Reviewed By
5 out of 5

Witness begins like many thrillers, with a murder, this time at a city railway station. The killing is witnessed by a small boy, Lukas Haas, who is a member of the Amish community, a religious sect living in rural Pennsylvania that eschews as much of modern life - notably machinery - as they can. Pursued by the bad guys, the boy and his widowed mother (Kelly McGillis) are protected by a cop (Harrison Ford), who takes them back to their village and awaits the killers' arrival, just as Gary Cooper did in High Noon. Directed by Australian Peter Weir, Witness is partly a love story and partly a thriller, but mainly a study of cultural collision - it's as if the world of Dirty Harry had suddenly stumbled into a canvas by Brueghel. This bucolic world is brilliantly evoked: there is a magical barn-raising scene, a beautiful sequence when an embarrassed yet lustful Ford discovers a half-naked McGillis in the middle of her ablutions, and a telling episode as the Amish endure the hostility of the tourists who gawp at them. The performances are immaculate, with Ford shining in his first serious dramatic role after his action escapades as Han Solo and Indiana Jones. McGillis is perfectly cast, the camera adoring her Nordic beauty beneath her bonnet, and Haas looks suitably wide-eyed and innocent. There are also fine turns by the late Alexander Godunov as McGillis's suitor, and Danny Glover as one of the heavies. Yet it's Weir's delicacy of touch that impresses the most. He ably juggles the various elements of the story and makes the violence seem even more shocking when it's played out on the fields of Amish denial.

Plot Summary

Romantic thriller starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis. Tough cop John Book is assigned to protect Rachel Lapp, a member of the reclusive Amish community, after her son witnesses a murder on a rare trip to the city. Forced to run for their lives, the trio flees to the Lapps' home - a rural refuge unchanged by modern technology and governed by devout pacifist beliefs. But the violence of the outside world is never far away.

Cast and crew


John Book
Harrison Ford
Rachel Lapp
Kelly McGillis
Deputy Commissioner Schaeffer
Josef Sommer
Samuel Lapp
Lukas Haas
Eli Lapp
Jan Rubes
Daniel Hochleitner
Alexander Godunov
Danny Glover
Brent Jennings
Patti LuPone
Angus MacInnes
Frederick Rolf
Moses Hochleitner
Viggo Mortensen
Bishop Tchantz
John Garson
Mrs Yoder
Beverly May
Ed Crowley
Timothy Carhart


Peter Weir

Other Information

Violence, swearing and brief nudity.
Available on video and DVD
Certificate 15