Witness 4K UHD Review: Competent Thriller; Excellent Romance

Peter Weir’s Witness is a contemporary police drama / romance that takes place in 1984 in Philadelphia and the Amish country surrounding it. Opening with the funeral of Jacob Lapp, husband to Rachel (Kelly McGillis), and father to their son, eight-year-old Samuel (Lukas Haas). Rachel and Samuel travel to Philadelphia to visit her sister after the funeral. While in a train station bathroom, Samuel witnesses the brutal murder of an undercover cop. Assigned to the murder is Detective Sergeant John Book (Harrison Ford) and his partner Sergeant Elton Carter (Brent Jennings).

Samuel is unable to pick the killer out of a lineup or a book of suspects; however, he sees the killer in the police precinct in the form of a photo and article hung on the wall concerning Lieutenant James McFee (Danny Glover). Book quickly realizes this case runs deeply through the police department and that Samuel, Rachel, and Book are in serious danger. To try to hide the Amish family he takes them right back home where a lack of technology will work to protect them.

The movie takes off once the romance between Rachel and Book can begin to blossom on an Amish farm. The romance is a very slow burn with hardly any dialogue. Book is wounded at first, then considered a not very useful convalescent, and finally shows his skills as a carpenter and is “accepted” into the community. That is to say, people decide to put up with him. Ford, McGinnis, and Haas put in such strong performances out in the fields of Amish country, that the murder / mystery is almost completely forgotten for nearly half the film. But that is okay; Ford and McGinnis burn through every frame of the film they are in together, and they are together often.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Jarret Gahan: interesting discussion of how the film came to be starting as a made-for-TV movie in 1975 up through becoming a feature film in 1985.
  • The Eye of the Witness – Brand new video interview with cinematographer John Seale, shot exclusively for Arrow Films in 2023.
  • Show…Don’t Tell – The Quiet Power of Peter Weir’s Witness: Brand new visual essay on the film’s performances by film journalist Staci Layne Wilson, recorded exclusively for Arrow Films in 2023.
  • Harrison Ford in Conversation: Vintage interview from 1985 in which Harrison Ford discusses Witness with critic Bobbie Wygant.
  • Between Two Worlds – The Making of Witness: Five-part archival documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Peter Weir, John Seale, producer Edward S. Felfman, and actors Lukas Haas, Patti LuPone, and Viggo Mortensen. 
  • A Conversation with Peter Weir: Archival interview with the film’s director.
  • Electronic Press Kit Featurettes: Two vintage EPK featurettes, featuring interviews with Peter Weir, Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis.
  • Deleted Scene: Deleted scene from the network TV version of the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Image Gallery

Witness is a strong thriller and an even stronger romance. The quality bonus features help to round out a very strong entry in the Arrow Video series.

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Greg Hammond

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