peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 11 19 Witness

Witness (1985)

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Apparently Viggo Mortensen's first role in a feature film. He isn't given much to do and he does it well: making up the numbers in a few crowds of Amish, not chasing Pennsylvanian Amish widow Kelly McGillis (following up her debut in Reuben, Reuben), eyeing Philadelphian detective Harrison Ford knowing he'll supplant him one day. She has a young son (Lukas Haas, as bony as he was in Brick twenty years later) who witnesses a murder by Danny Glover and colleague in a train station toilet. Ford holds them as material witnesses so they never make it to Baltimore. That aspect of the plot quickly goes L. A. Confidential but really this is about the romance between the leads. Everything is predictably Amish Paradise except for Ford who is predictably the best at deploying violence. I did not understand the ending too well.

IMDB tells me this was Peter Weir's first feature-film directorial effort outside of Australia. This got him an Oscar nom, as it did for Ford: his one and only. Shot by John Seale (also nommed and not gonged). The editing and script did get Oscared. The soundtrack by Maurice Jarre has its moments.

Roger Ebert: four stars. Vincent Canby was far less impressed. Alexander Godunov, Amish pursuer of McGillis, steals every scene he's in. Both were fascinated by her physique.