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Witness (SE)
DVD disk
Aug 16, 2005 By: Scott Weinberg
Witness (SE) order
Director:
Peter Weir

Actors:
Harrison Ford
Kelly McGillis
Danny Glover

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
On the run from a crooked gang of co-workers, Philadelphia police detective John Book decides to hole up in the neighborhood of his one and only witness ... and the kid lives in Amish Country!
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Half cop flick, half "forbidden romance" drama, and completely respectful cinematic translation of what Amish people actually act like, Witness is a pretty damn good movie -- and you can attribute much of its sucess to leading man Harrison Ford and director Peter Weir. Most of the "police stuff" comes in the first and third acts, while the bulk of the story is devoted to the low-key antics that occur when a hard-boiled modern-day cop finds himself living in the relative time-warp that is Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

What works best in Witness is the very thing that might turn most guys off to the flick; the romance between Book and the lovely Amish widow Rachel Lapp is hinted at, paid attention to, and brought to life with warmth and subtlety ... plus the movie "pays off" the romance angle with a refreshing lack of predictability, which is always nice.

One of the more entertaining side-games while watching this romantic drama from 1984: spot that face! Here you'll see Danny Glover playing against type as a ruthlessly crooked cop, Viggo Mortensen as a bright-eyed Amish youth, and Alexander Gudonov as the "more appropriate" suitor for Rachel's affections.

And of course there are the fantastic performances from a very young Lukas Haas, Kelly McGillis at her most beguiling, Josef Sommer as a scene-stealing papa, and, of course, Harrison Ford. Stepping (briefly) away from the Indiana Jones / Han Solo mold, Ford is clearly savoring the fact that he's being asked to play a mere mortal, and the actor proved a lot of people wrong with his performance in Witness. His transformation from action hero to leading man was cemented once Witness hit the screens, and it still represents some of the actor's best work.

(Also, a solid round applause is due for the beautiful and somewhat haunting score by Maurice Jarre. It's strikingly good.)

THE EXTRAS
The main extra feature is a really fantastic multi-chapter documentary entitled Between Two Worlds: The Making of Witness. Broken up into chapters labeled Origins, Amish Country, The Artistic Process, The Heart of the Matter, and Denouement, it runs about 65 minutes when viewed in one "play all" sitting. Interview participants include director Peter Weir, cinematographer John Seale, producer Edward S. Feldman, and actors Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Viggo Mortensen, Patti LuPone, and Lukas Haas. Needless to say: fans of the film will eat this mini-doc up, as it's cock-full of interesting anecdotes, production stories, and heartfelt recollections. Really good stuff here.

You'll also find one (rather lengthy) deleted scene (which was actually spliced back in when Witness played on network television), a trio of old-school TV spots, the original theatrical trailer, and a handful of previews for Airplane: The "Don't Call Me Shirley" Edition, Tommy Boy: The "Holy Schnikes" Edition, The John Wayne Collection, and MacGyver: The Complete First Season.

FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Don't go in expecting a big, macho cop movie and you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by the multi-genre meal that Witness has to offer. It's got some action, some romance, a few drips of comedy, and a lot of fascinating insight into a culture we know very little about. Toss in a few excellent supplements and you're looking at another SE winner from the fine folks at Paramount.
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