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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 31 May 2005
If you ever had doubts as to why Peter Weir is regarded as one of the finest directors working today, then watch this film. On any level, this is the way movies should be made. A career-best performance from Harrison Ford, ably supported by beautifully pitched performances from everyone else, especially the wonderful Lukas Haas as Samuel, the young Amish witness Ford is assigned to protect, and Kelly McGillis as his mother. I've seen thise film so many times and yet it never fails to draw me into its simple but brilliant world. Like Eastwood's UNFORGIVEN, WITNESS is the perfect blend of genre and something more interesting, where we are drawn into the familiar (murder, police investigation etc) only to then divert, dramatically into less familiar (or in this case, uncharted) territory. And like any great story, it's the collision of these two worlds and the way the characters react (especially Ford and McGillis) that elevates this material into the extraordinary. Mainstream cinema at its absolute best. I rememeber when the movie came out the posters ran the tagline "Harrison Ford is John Book". For me he always will be.
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on 24 October 2005
Witness is the sort of timeless offering that we rarely see these days. Brilliant acting, haunting soundtrack and tight directing put this in my top 5 anytime. The measure of any film is disappointment that it has come to an end and a feeling that you could see it again and again. I must have seen this film over a dozen times and, like a comfortable old friend, it never disappoints. I cannot think that any modern blockbuster star can have given a performance better than Harrison Ford's in this film. What makes it outstanding is the excellence around him - Jan Rubes as Eli Lapp, Kelly McGillis, Lukas Haas, Josef Sommer et al. The barn building scene is worth the price alone.
I managed to find the farm during a holiday in the US in 1996 and it evokes such memories of the film when you see it. The first thing I did when I got home was to put the video on to make sure sure it was the farm - it was!
You note at the end of the credits there are the words "In Memory of Tom Scott". Tom was one of the location casters for the film - a more fitting epitaph than this film could not befall many men!
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on 19 April 2012
In my opinion, this is both Peter Weir's and Harrison Ford's finest achievement. It's a simple story, beautifully unfolding with quite exquisite photography and wonderful, haunting music by Maurice Jarre.

The love that unfolds between John Book and the Amish woman, played by Kelly McGillis, is described with real sensitivity and subtlety and the scene between them in the barn is quite one of the most erotic I have ever seen; all done with no nudity, no needless humping bodies, but captured instead with intense looks, lustful stares and guilt ridden hesitation.

The Amish boy is played by Lucas Haas ( I think I have his name right)and is a masterpiece of innocence corrupted by the larger world of the 'English' that he inadvertantly stumbles into.

This film has everything; a great story, wonderful landscape, stunning photography and a masterclass in subtle, cinematic acting. Don't miss it.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 24 May 2012
Intrigue, suspense, conspiracy, corruption, romance, lust, action, thrills, twists, this film has it all. I remember it being one of my father's favourite films, and it will always remain one of mine too. To make the mundane communal erecting of a barn so compelling to watch, with all the currents of lust and attraction and rivalry and even jealousy stirring just beneath the surface as they do, is complete genius. And there are few things more satisfying in a film than watching a bully get their comeuppance, and surely as a supreme example of this, the ice cream cone scene will never be surpassed! Harrison Ford really does "barely controlled rage" incredibly well, and in terms of that, this scene has to be his finest hour :-)

The mark of a truly great thriller is that you can watch it over and over again, and it still remains compelling viewing, even though the story is known. This film certainly delivers here. In fact, I think I will have to go and watch it again now!

Anyone who thinks this is "slow and boring" is missing out on a great film. I love it.
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on 1 March 2003
I think the interface between Harrison Ford and Kelly McG has been described as the 'most sensual piece of film ever made - where no-one even takes their clothes off'. The eye contact, the desire, transmitted between these two, especially in the scene where the community is building the barn, has never been surpassed. The atmosphere is enhanced by the incredible, much underrated music - the theme tune is powerful and haunting. I own the music CD and play it frequently. Perhaps it was a pity that the music was played on synthetic equipment rather than by an orchestra
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I love this film and have watched it many times. There are so many good things about it, the story, the music, the perfect casting and acting, the humour, the locations, all of which have been covered in other reviews.

What really sets it apart though is the use of lighting, notably so that the interiors of the Amish farm provide rays and pools of light and shadow, which are beautifully used to frame the characters - particularly the serenity and beauty of Rachel. My abiding impression is a glow of light and luminosity, a really glorious film.
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on 21 June 2007
Like many other Peter Weir films (see Truman Show and Mosquito Coast, for example), Witness juxtaposes two very different worlds, highlighting both the value and the shortcomings of each. In this slow, meditative film, Book's immersion into the Amish world is beautifully handled, mirroring the viewer's own immersion. The love story, for once, rings true and is extremely touching. There are numerous memorable scenes - the throat-cutting scene in the public toilet near the beginning, Samuel recognising the perpetrator as the narcotics officer in the police station, the barn-building scene, and the death-by-corn scene near the end. A beautiful, near-perfect film.
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on 11 March 2016
The clash of cultures between strict religious sects such as the Amish and other Mennonite orders, and men who live by violence seems to fascinate film producers. Witness is one, as are "The angel and the badman" (John Wayne) and "The Outsider" (Tim Daley).
All three have a wounded outlaw/shootist/cop taken in by a woman from a strict religious sect - Quaker, Amish, Mennonite

Witness is beautifully filmed on location in Philadelphia and Lancaster County with excellent direction by Peter Weir and haunting music by Maurice Jarre. One thing I really like is that the producers were able to use Harrison Ford's ability as a carpenter in the barn raising scenes.

A classic film I never tire of watching.
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Belonging to an 'Amish' community 'Rachel' (Kelly McGillis) and her young son 'Samuel' (Lukas Haas) who live in a
World that belongs to yesteryear are on a journey, caught up in a World of wonder that he has no knowledge of
'Samuel' becomes a witness to the murder of an under-cover narcotics cop.
Now his mother and he have unwittingly become involved in a criminal investigation, as the only witness 'Samuel'
is the only one that can identify the killer.
Detective 'John Book' (Harrison Ford) leading the case befriends young 'Samuel' and his mother giving them temporary
accommodation in his own home which he shares with his sister.
When 'Samuel' see's a picture of the killer, a decorated officer 'McFee' (Danny Glover) things start to become complex
and indeed dangerous.
Ahead of a trial 'John' takes 'Rachel' and her son back to their community for safety with the intent of leaving them there
and returning to Philadelphia, however in a gunfight with the killer earlier he'd been injured and in need of medical help.
The Amish community take him in and try to fix him up and return him to full fitness...
However back in Philadelphia 'John' had become chief suspect in the killing of the under-cover cop, the corrupt department
had built a case against him.
'Rachel' her son and 'John have become the subject of a nation-wide search by the Philadelphia police department.
'John' whist recovering his injuries had tried to fit into the Amish community helping with the chores where he could, however
it was becoming increasingly obvious he and 'Rachel' were indeed falling for each-other, a forbidden liaison in the eyes of the
Amish community that could put them both at odds with the elders.
Meanwhile the police department have identified the location of the community which will inevitably lea to the two Worlds
colliding as the present bring violence to the peaceful community creating a life or death threat for 'John' and possibly 'Rachel'
and her son.
Much of the film is centred around the Amish Community in which outsider John Book try's to blend in with as his feelings for
Rachel begin to surface.
Whist a prospective deadly threat develops within the corrupt police-department for the peace loving farmers.
Not perhaps the fastest moving plot, however, 'Harrison Ford' puts in a credible shift as the cuckoo in the nest as it were.
Well worth a revisit or indeed a first viewing.
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Slow moving, but fabulous film, giving wonderful insight into Amish community life. The plot revolves around protecting a young Amish boy who witnessed the murder of an undercover cop by another cop.

A few 'f' words here and one instance of nudity, but mild by today's standards. Generally a thrilling warm movie that should be appreciated by all the family.
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