Yesterday, this column reviewed "The Fugitive," a classic thriller starring Harrison Ford as a convicted murderer who has to break the law to prove his innocence. Over the years, Ford has starred in many thrillers, although he is more commonly known for playing characters on the side of law enforcement. In the 1985 film "Witness," he plays a policeman, albeit one in a vulnerable position for much of the movie.
In "Witness," Ford plays John Book, a detective who has to protect an Amish child, Samuel, who witnessed a murder in a bathroom at a train station. During the course of the investigation, John realizes that he cannot trust all of his fellow officers and went he is shot, he realizes he not only has to protect Samuel and his widowed mom, Rachel (played by Kelly McGillis), but also himself. He concludes that if he goes to the hospital, a report will be written, and the killers will know where to find the witness. John has no choice but to stay in the Amish community as he recovers. As he stays there, his appreciation for their way of life increases, although much of the film hones in on the "fish-out-of-water" situation embedded in having a macho 20th century cop trying to adapt to 19th century pacifist people and ways.
All the performances in "Witness" are very impressive. Harrison Ford is typically strong as John, the smart cop determined to protect Samuel and Rachel. His performance earned an Academy Award nomination. Kelly McGillis is equally good as Rachel, a recently widowed Amish woman who becomes attracted to John.
Without using extreme violence or standard chases scenes, director Peter Weir still infuses much suspense into the film. The climax is very tense. It is a good scene because it shows how intelligent John is.
"Witness" is a great choice for fans of Harrison Ford, as well as fans of suspense films.