A small Amish lad by the name of Sam Lapp,
Whose father just died, walks right into a trap
When he visits the city, a vast place of gloom,
And witnesses murder while in the restroom.
He gets out unnoticed, and he and his mom
Meet an Officer Book, who insists they stay calm.
He wants Sam to identify who did the crime:
He finds out it’s a cop named McFee in no time.
When Book tells his boss Schaeffer of a drug scheme
McFee is behind, things are not what they seem.
Book is ambushed and wounded while toting some suits
And realizes Schaeffer must be in cahoots.
He takes Sam and Rachel (the mom), and they drive
To Amish farm country to keep them alive.
But Book, who was shot, is too injured to leave
So the Lapps take him in, though they’re shy to receive
This English outsider who carries a gun,
But they help him recover, which stuns everyone.
He slowly adapts to this rural lifestyle,
Though he calculates what next to do all the while.
He learns to wake up at 4:30 to milk,
He helps with barn raising and things of that ilk.
He grows close to Sam but to Rachel much closer,
And does she resist his romantic charm? No, sir.
She tries at first, yes, but the choice is quite hard.
Should she stay with the Amish or leave with her guard?
At last, Schaeffer finds them and storms the farmhouse.
Both Book and the bad guys then play cat-and-mouse.
He drowns one attacker in a silo of corn
And shoots McFee too, but then Schaeffer warns
That he has Rachel hostage. Though he threatens to end her,
Book triumphs by guilting the cop to surrender.
In the end, there is sadness and breaking of hearts
Because Rachel won’t leave, watching as Book departs.

Witness is a beautifully filmed love story that manages to mix excitement, romance, and a realistic fish-out-of-water tale into a movie that was obviously meant to garner multiple Oscar nominations (which it did, including Harrison Ford’s only Best Actor nomination for the role of John Book). It also made my mother hesitant to let me go alone to a public restroom when I was young.

My family briefly considered joining the Amish several years ago, and, while we decided their lifestyle is not for us, I have the deepest respect for their way of life. Witness does a good job of presenting the Amish lifestyle in a way that makes it seem quaint but not backwards, simply different from ours. The cinematography and direction are lovely, particularly the barn-raising scene midway through, and help to make up for a few boring moments.

As with Inkheart, though, the end just isn’t very satisfying, mainly because it muddles the film’s message. Either Rachel should have left the Amish to go with Book, showing that love can overcome any barrier, or she should have remained faithful to her beliefs, showing faith and normalcy were more important to her than a sinful relationship. But allowing Rachel to act on her temptations (we can assume from the passionate kissing scene in the field), but not enough to go all the way and leave, just messes it up. It may be “realistic” in not having such a question be black or white, but the way it is done makes it seem that she took a bite of cake and will now live in denial of ever wanting to have the rest. But that’s just me. The nude scene and the frequent (though comparatively restrained) language also take away from the film’s entertainment and moral value.

Best line: (a tourist, after Book says something very un-Amish to her) “Did you hear what that A-mish said to me?”

Artistry: 7
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 5
Visual Effects: 4
Originality: 5
Watchability: 4
Other (nudity and language): -5
TOTAL: 27 out of 60

Tomorrow: #350: 12 Angry Men

© 2014 S. G. Liput