Witness

This 1985 movie is set mainly in the Pennsylvania Amish Community and begins at the funeral of the husband of Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis).

The Amish are a conservative Christian group in North America which primarily are members of the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church. Founded in Europe in the seventeenth century by Jacob Amman, they migrated to North America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They are best known for their plain clothing and their non-conforming way of life. The Amish also avoid telephones and electric lights and drive horses and buggies rather than automobiles. Their church services are conducted in Palatine German with a mixture of English thrown in. This is more commonly known as Pennsylvania Dutch.

After the first cutting of hay is put up, Rachel and her son Samuel (Lukas Haas) board a train for a trip to Baltimore to visit Rachel’s sister. In Philadelphia, her connecting train has been delayed for three hours so she and Samuel wait in the train station. It is in the men’s room of this station that Samuel witnesses the murder of an undercover narcotics officer.

Detective John Book (Harrison Ford) questions the boy and has him pour over mug shots in search of the killers. When Book gets a phone call, Samuel wanders around the squad room and stops in front of a display case. In the display case is a newspaper article about a narcotics officer, a Lieutenant McFee (Danny Glover) who had been honored for a youth project. Samuel immediately recognizes McFee as one of the killers.

After investigating, Book reports to his superior, Paul Schaefer (Josef Sommer), that McFee is the suspect and had conducted a narcotics raid two years before in which five-hundred and fifty gallons of P2P was confiscated. Book explains that he called police storage and there is no record of ten fifty-five gallon drums of P2P. Dl-methamphetamine (speed) is produced using the precursor phenyl-2-propanone (P2P) and sells for five thousand dollars a pint.

In the parking garage of his apartment building, Book is ambushed and wounded by McFee. He realizes that Schaefer is in on the narcotics deal since he was the only one who knew what Book had found. He had to get Rachel and Samuel out of the city. He called his partner, Sergeant Carter, and asked him to get rid of all the paperwork before Schaefer can see it and find out all the information about Samuel and Rachel.

Book borrowed his sister’s car and drove Rachel and Samuel all the way back to their farm. He passed out from loss of blood while trying to drive away. The Amish community reluctantly nursed him back to health, knowing that if they took him to a hospital, the bullet wound be reported and then Samuel would be found by the searching policemen.

While Book tried to figure out what to do, he learned about and participated in life on the farm. He also formed a romantic relationship with Rachel. On one of his trips into town, he tried to call Sergeant Carter from a pay phone. He learns that Cater had been killed in the line of duty the night before. He knew that Shaefer and McFee were instrumental in the death of his partner. The town was filled with tourists who found the Amish to be a strange curiosity. The local youths were used to the Amish and liked to harass them occasionally. The pacifist Amish never fought back but when they started this time, Book, being upset about the death of his partner, got out of the carriage and beat up the street toughs. This drew attention to himself and the Amish so that Schaefer and McFee found out where he was.

Early one morning, a car carrying Schaefer, McFee and another man, Fergie, crested the hill on the drive leading to the farm. The three men got out and retrieved shotguns from the car trunk. They walked down to the farm where they cornered Book in the barn. Book managed to do away with McFee and Fergie. Schaefer, realizing the futility of the situation, surrendered his guns and gave up.

This movie was nominated for the best picture Oscar but Out Of Africa won the award. It did, however, win for Best Editing and Best Writing for a Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Harrison Ford was also nominated for Best Actor. William Hurt won for Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Cast

  • Harrison Ford-John Book
  • Kelly McGillis-Rachel Lapp
  • Josef Sommer-Paul Schaefer
  • Lukas Haas-Samuel Lapp
  • Jan Rubes-Eli Lapp
  • Alexander Godunov-Daniel Hochleitner
  • Danny Glover-McFee
  • Brent Jennings-Carter
  • Patti LuPone-Elaine
  • Angus MacInnes-Fergie
  • Frederick Rolf-Stoltzfus
  • Viggo Mortensen-Moses Hochleitner
  • John Garson-Bishop Tchantz
  • Beverly May-Mrs. Yoder
  • Ed Crowley-Sheriff

A Few Sound Effects From the Movie