This week for Hit Me with Your Best Shot Nathaniel has given us a film I have long wanted to watch as it gave Harrison Ford his only Oscar nomination. I’ve always felt that Ford is more than just a popcorn movie actor as certainly movies like Blade Runner and Regarding Henry show, so it is interesting to see the film the academy feels is his best. It is also directed by Peter Weir who has done some wonderful movies including Dead Poets Society and The Truman Show.
So what did I think? I thought it was a pretty good crime thriller and that the entire cast was very strong. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece or anything but a solid well made movie.
In Witness, Ford plays a detective named John Book who is assigned to investigate the murder of a cop in a train station. The only clue to the crime is a little Amish boy (Lukas Haas) who saw everything from a bathroom stall. It turns out that the entire police force is corrupt and so Book hides out with the Amish including the boy’s mother Rachel (Kelly McGillis). Rachel is a widow and nervously aids Book but the two form a bond in the tense days. The community also has to deal with Book’s presence as the corrupt officers come closer to finding his location.
Witness is particularly strong in the beginning and end. The scenes where young Samuel is witnessing the crime are very brutal- even more so because they are seen from a child’s point of view. Haas is very good as the little boy seeing things he cannot process in any way.
I’ve only seen McGillis in Top Gun but she’s fantastic in this film. I really liked how well rounded all the Amish characters are portrayed especially Rachel. It’s easy for Hollywood to take religious characters and turn them into caricatures or make them judgemental, patronizing or stupid. These men and women are none of those things but just people living life as best as they know how.
The middle section with a barn raising and building romance between Rachel and John wasn’t as compelling as the crime elements but they aren’t bad. Overall it works and is a good movie.
It does earn it’s R rating for some strong nudity and violence.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people have my best shot. It is from the scene where Lukas is witnessing the murder. You of course have the image of him peering through the hole in the bathroom stall but to me the full view of his face grasping what he has seen is more powerful. In fact, it is here that he can’t help but exclaim ‘Ah’ in a gasp almost heard by the criminals.
Overall Grade- B