Witness (1985)

Peter Weir directs Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis and Lukas Haas in this thriller where a cop must protect an Amish boy who has witnessed a murder.

Barn building. Peach jarring. Illicitly dancing to Sam Cooke. Doorway glimpses. It is fair to say in the middle hour of Witness, very little action occurs. Peter Weir is a director who immerses us in a new world or worldview, one that is often hypercritical of modern society by comparison. Here he plays the trick twice. First we experience the beauty and chaos, the overwhelming scale and danger of the city through the eyes of a pure child. Then when we think we will enjoy a fish out of water mode as Ford’s tough cop John Book must pretend to be Amish, he does something even riskier. Weir lets Book appreciate a life without technology or violence or crime. The film does begin and end with thrilling scenes of murder but in its calm centre, we are brought back to a state of innocence. If an action hero as dynamic as Han Solo or Indiana Jones can be seduced by the serenity of Amish life, why shouldn’t we? John Seale’s uncluttered vision and Maurice Jarre’s trembling synth score nurse us backwards in time. Though it is surprising how often the central mystery hook is reprioritised, the romance and drama that takes its place is handsome and enthralling. “You be careful out among them English!”


Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

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