Witness - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Witness Reviews

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½ February 23, 2016
Book it Before the End
As the opening images of an Amish community gathering to mourn the loss of a member of their own rolls across the screen, a few of the last things you expect to follow are suspense and romance. However that is exactly what follows in this highly original take on a cop thriller meets love story. However, with the subtle originality and the intensity of the acting, the finale just wasn't quite there in Peter Weir's "Witness" (1985).
As the widow, Rachel (Kelly McGillis), and her son, Samuel (Lukas Haas), travel to Philadelphia, Samuel becomes the witness to a heinous crime. Police officer, John Book (Harrison Ford), takes them under his protection, but soon finds himself fleeing along with them as corruption surfaces and a dangerous situation falls upon them. Before long he's thrown into the new and peculiar world of Rachel and Samuel's Amish community, and forced to conform to their way of life or risk being discovered.
As Book develops from a hardened cop who believes he is the best, and incapable of love, into someone completely different. He turns into someone who fits in with the Amish community, but never loses the sense of who he was before. Rachel, begins the movie as a strong and proud Amish mother who follows the cues of her elders, however as the film develops, so does she, as she stands up to those she took cues from and speaks her mind.
The insight that Ford gives us into John Book's personality through his actions make his character all the more complex. Ford hints at Book's dominance by drinking milk out of his sister's milk carton and then shoving it in her hand as he rushes out the door, or in the way his voice booms and all else goes silent. However, Ford also plays up Book's childlike side as he sings along to a favorite song, and dances awkwardly, all along making Book's character that much more complex.
Not only does Ford add complexity to Book, but he also expresses emotion in a way that encompasses his whole body. Ford expresses fear in a way that it is not only shown on his face, but also in his eyes, and in his shaking and sweating. The irritation that he feels for being in the Amish community is shown not by sarcasm alone, but in how stiffly and slowly he walks in Amish clothing. And we see that he is in love before he does, by the longing in his eyes with each lengthy glance. The complexity of Book's character, along with his and Rachel's character development, is how they even become capable of love.
At first glance, the boy-meets-girl love story of the film seems fairly typical and unoriginal. Looking closer at the circumstances in which they fall in love and their character development brings forth the originality of this film. The simple acts that cause them to fall in love from building a barn to listening to music, is what brings this love story its originality.
All in all, this unique take on a suspenseful romance deserves its place as an original film. However, the ending left me wondering what was next for the characters, and a little disappointed that it didn't end with bang, or a romantic grand gesture. The satisfaction you feel at the end of a film just wasn't there, only questions.
½ February 9, 2016
Good thriller, both leads did great.
January 25, 2016
Brilliant. Harrison Ford, Patti LuPone, Danny Glover, and Kelly McGillis are superb.The score is mesmerizing, and the cinematography of Lancaster, PA is stunning.
½ December 13, 2015
Although Witness had an intriguing story, tense pacing and some exhilarating action, it didn't add anything original to the corrupt cop genre or cause as much trouble as it could've in its reserved, Amish setiting.
December 12, 2015
"Witness" is a delightful dramatic film and an excellent thriller, despite not being an action-driven film. What it lacks in flash, it makes up for with undeniable charm. It gives us a significant look at Harrison Ford and his acting abilities from a different point of view. Outside of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, "Witness" is one of the action star's best films.
½ November 22, 2015
A solid, surprisingly sexy crime thriller mashed with romantic drama. Beyond the inclusion of the Amish community it's nothing you haven't seen before; but fun nonetheless.
½ November 18, 2015
The strangest thing to me about this movie is that it made it onto AFI's 100 Passions list. The relationship between Rachel and John is certainly interesting, but is it one of the best romantic stories in film in the last hundred years?
November 14, 2015
If you want to know about the life of Amish people, this is it. Peter Weir turns an ordinary thriller into one of his best, with Harrison Ford's one-and-only Oscar nominated performance, and Maurice Jarre's perfect score.
November 12, 2015
This is another 80's gem I'd never seen in its entirety. Harrison Ford was in the prime of his career and Kelly McGillis shows her tatas. They're not really that impressive but kudos to her for showing them anyway. Pretty solid movie really and it's fun to see a pre-Lethal Weapon Danny Glover as a bad guy.
½ October 29, 2015
I read a review of "The Babadook," comparing Noah Wiseman's character to the child actor from his film. Many similarities (maybe his agent even made him watch this?) and I have to give credit where due: this film seems very progressive for 1985, as far as modeling cultural tolerance, and flipping the script 3/4 through to show how when- acting as tourists--we gawk and condescend to outside groups we perceive as strange-- we are the ones who appear ridiculous.
½ September 2, 2015
Witness's genre mix of thriller and drama is definitely original and even audacious even if at times it doesn't quite work. But it is still such a well crafted story, for once meaningful and smart, having both romance and drama, but still having terrific thriller elements, especially in the pulse-pounding and so memorable beginning. It is a thrilling, but emotional film that also has something to say. It is incredibly well executed, well directed, well acted, but above all well paced and riveting from start to finish. It is one of the best 1980s thrillers without a doubt.
August 30, 2015
Un polar chez les Amish avec Harrison Ford qui marche plutot bien.
August 29, 2015
So bad ... its funny ... except that it isn't ... riddled with really bad stereotypes and cliches. .. I can't help wondering that even in the 1980s this movie would be considered to be horribly racist and a prejudiced misrepresentation of the Amish, law inforcement, women and so on. Decent performances/acting from lead actors ... but a squimishly bad, bad, bad script.
August 23, 2015
This is a solid movie, well-acted and suspenseful. As a student of religion, I am skeptical of the film critique of the amish sect, but it is generally an excellent movie.
August 22, 2015
gr8 cast good thriller
½ August 20, 2015
As much as I love Harrison Ford, I truly think this film doesn't really live up to all the praise it seems to be getting today. At first viewing,I thought it was an interesting way of conveying the theme, but I think I was more latched on to the idea of Ford living and learning from the Amish than the actual film. It felt almost as if it was made for the not-so-subtle anti-violence message and for the "Look, Harrison Ford is in our movie" claim. I don't really see that much else, but overall, it was "okay".
July 29, 2015
Witness is an entertaining and highly effective drama thriller with a great performance by Harrison Ford!
July 8, 2015
Witness is an interesting and very well made film. The performances, especially by Harrison Ford, are great. The movie has some very intense and well shot scenes of excellent filmmaking. The writing, direction, and characters are all very impressive. The story starts out very engaging, then loses itself a bit towards the second act with a love story subplot becoming the main focus instead of the protection of this young boy. It doesn't feel forced but rather unnecessarily becomes the movie's main focus. Once the finale hits its back to the suspense and thrills promised in the beginning. The end is satisfying and memorable. Overall Witness is a great movie with an engaging story that does lose its way a little with some pacing issues but doesn't keep this from being the great film it is. Witness gets 4/5 stars (A-).
June 24, 2015
A romance story set in Amish country-I lived in lancaster county for 6 years-how could I not like it. I did enjoy how they portrayed the Amish and could relate to a lot of what they showed. I enjoyed the romance story a lot. The cop story was decent and the ending was dramatic but it was more the backdrop to the cultural love story. Harrison adds charm and likability to his character and I really liked him in this role as well as kelly mcgillis. The little boy was really cute. Some beautiful cinematography of lancaster as I remember it.
½ June 14, 2015
good flick. obviously inspired kingpin a bit (or at least i felt that way). too long, though. too much "just look at how these amish live!" moments. nice thriller otherwise.
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