Witness is at times a gentle, affecting story of star-crossed lovers limited within the fascinating Amish community. Too often, however, this fragile romance is crushed by a thoroughly absurd shoot-em-up, like ketchup poured over a delicate Pennsylvania Dutch dinner.
Australian director Peter Weir is obviously awed by the Amish, the quaint agrarian sect which maintains a 17th-century lifestyle, forsaking all modern conveniences while maintaining intense religious vows, including a pacifism most pertinent here.
Venturing outside the community on a trip to see her sister, recently widowed Kelly McGillis is drawn unfortunately into the 20th century when her young son (Lukas Haas), witnesses a murder in the men’s room at the train station.
Enter gruff, foul-mouthed, streetwise detective Harrison Ford, whom the writers [story by William Kelley, Pamela Wallace, Earl W. Wallace] must somehow get out into the countryside as soon as possible so the cross-cultural romance can begin.
Witness warms up as the attraction builds between Ford, McGillis and Haas – all performing excellently through this portion. Admirable, too, is Ford’s growing admiration for the people he’s been thrown among.
1985: Best Original Screenplay, Editing.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Harrison Ford), Cinematography, Art Direction, Original Score