Film: Witness

1985 film directed by Peter Weir and starring Harrison Ford, who earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Also starring Kelly McGillis, Lukas Haas and Danny Glover.

Samuel Lapp is a young Amish boy journeying to Baltimore to visit an aunt with his mother, the recently widowed Rachel Lapp. Samuel is the witness when two men kill an undercover officer in a Philadelphia train station bathroom. Detective John Book takes the boy into custody to protect him when it turns out that the killers are crooked narcotics cops. After a shootout, Book is wounded and hides with the Lapps on their farm, and ends up developing a relationship with Rachel as he recovers, adapting to the Amish lifestyle and being tentatively accepted by the community. But their idyllic lifestyle is soon shattered once the villains figure out where they went and descend upon the unsuspecting Amish town with their guns.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: During the milking scene, Eli asks Book, who is having trouble at it, "Come on man, have you never held a teat before?" to which Book deadpans "Not one this big." You expect the dour Eli to get indignant at this fairly sexual quip, but after taking a second to realize what Book means, he instead gives a roar of laughter and claps him on the back in a "You're all right, kid" manner.
  • Adult Fear: The film likes to slap a lot of it on you especially when concerning Samuel's well being. The most prominent being the Gun scene. You have Samuel who as an Amish person, let alone a child has never seen or knew how a handgun works. He sneaks into Book's room while he's in another room, still recovering from his own gunshot wound. Out of sheer curiosity he opens the drawer and takes Book's gun out. Book walking in and seeing Samuel, knowing the gun is loaded, yells at him not to move. You can tell by the tone of his voice, he's more worried that Samuel would get hurt rather than angry. Book gives Samuel a stern lecture about handling a loaded gun and even shows him how to properly disarm it. As if that wasn't bad enough Rachel walks in, not knowing the gun was unloaded, but still upset that her kid is handling a handgun. She justifiably chews Book out over it and rather than argue with her, he agrees and asks her to hide it in a safer place. Eli gets in on it too and gives a less stern, but reasonable lecture to Samuel on why it's not ok to use a gun and take human life. You can even tell by his voice, that he's seen his fair share of violence and that he just doesn't want to see his own Grandson get hurt or hurt anyone else too.
  • Actual Pacifist: Naturally. Though in a very humanizing moment, that doesn't mean Daniel can't enjoy the sight of some jerks who were harrassing him getting their asses kicked.
  • An Aesop: The film depicts violence as never being the answer and depicts it unpleasantly and having negative consequences. As satisfying as it may be to the viewer, Book angrily punching the Jerkass tourist who was bullying Daniel is what allows Schaeffer to track him down. At the opposite end, the movie, by this same logic, avoids having Book kill Schaeffer in favor of a nonviolent conclusion.
  • Amish
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: The reason Book has to hide among the Amish is because so many of his own fellow officers are corrupt drug dealers, including his superior, Schaeffer.
  • Barn Raising: Probably the film's most famous scene.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Amish.
  • Blonde Guys Are Evil: Fergie.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Despite knowing the Lapp family and living in the Amish Community for a few days, Book is able to blend in pretty well and adopt their mannerisms. The only times he slips up are when he threatens a lady or gets into a fight with some tourists that harass Daniel.
  • But Now I Must Go: Book, at the end.
  • The Cast Show Off: Harrison Ford is a skilled carpenter in real life, and demonstrates carpentry skills several times in the film.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The grain silo.
  • Cool Old Guy: Eli Lapp.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Daniel. Apart from a pointed question about when Book is going to leave, he doesn't create any problems re him and Rachel. Justified in that his patient courting is implied to win out in the end when Book leaves.
  • The Dragon: McFee.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: This is how the Amish win through nonviolence. They passively witness Schaeffer doing evil, meaning he'd have to slaughter every man, woman and child in the village to keep his secret. He realizes that he cannot bring himself to go that far and gives up.
  • Genre Savvy: While Eli doesn't like violence, when he spots McFee and the other two corrupt cops, the first thing he does is call Book for help. He gets knocked out right after.
  • Gratuitous German: The Amish. Sometimes mangled to the point of being unintelligible, but possibly justified by the Amish being an isolated community that has very little (if any) contact to other German speakers and also speaks English most of the time.
    • The German dialect used by the American Amish (so-called Pennsylvania German) is quite distinct from its European counterparts.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: When Book finds out that the perpetrator of a recent cop murder is a narcotics detective, and upon further investigation realizes said detective was involved in the theft of confiscated drugs, he goes to Police Chief Schaeffer and, upon telling everything he knows, is asked whether he has told anyone else. When Book says no, Schaeffer tells him to keep it quiet. Justified by the fact that Book trusts Schaeffer and, as a police corruption case, it would make sense to keep as few officers in the loop as possible.
  • He Knows Too Much
  • Heroic BSOD: Book has a couple. Notably, this is the reason he finally hauls off and punches out the tourist picking on Daniel: he'd just learned his partner Carter had been killed and the tourist picked then of all times to push Book's buttons.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Book's reason for leaving. He knows Daniel will make a better husband for Rachel and father for Samuel.
  • Jerk Ass: Those redneck tourists in town who harass the Amish.
  • Just A Flesh Wound: Subverted. Book is badly hit and only barely survives getting shot in the stomach by McFee.
  • One-Word Title
  • Papa Wolf: While neither being their son, father or husband, Book will do anything to protect Eli, Samuel and Rachel.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: The Amish. They still come to the rescue at the end, though, in their own way.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Schaeffer has a family and doesn't seem as vicious as his two overzealous henchmen.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Done twice. First by Schaeffer to Book when he has Rachel hostage, and later by the Amish to Schaeffer. Surprisingly it works, and Schaeffer is shamed into surrendering after realizing he can't actually kill Samuel.
  • Searching the Stalls / Indy Hat Roll: The bathroom scene that sets up the plot.
  • Scary Black Man: McFee.
  • So Much for Stealth: Samuel makes a noise just about when the villains decide to leave the bathroom. An Indy Hat Roll keeps him from being caught though.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Rachel and Book. Their relationship is pretty much doomed from the get-go.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Played with and subverted. Schaeffer initially seems hellbent on killing Samuel for witnessing the murder but he finds himself unable to actually do it when the time comes, and is shamed into giving up.