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Peter Weir
Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Lukas Haas
Writing Credits:
Earl W. Wallace, William Kelley

When a young Amish boy is sole witness to a murder while visiting Philadelphia with his mother, police detective John Book tries to protect the boy until an attempt on Book's life forces him into hiding in Amish country.

Rated R.


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Dolby Vision
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English LPCM 2.0 (Home Video Mix)
English LPCM 2.9 (Theatrical Dolby Stereo)
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $59.95
Release Date: 11/7/23

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Jarret Gahan
• “The Eye of the Witness” Featurette
• “Show… Don’t Tell” Featurette
• “Harrison Ford in Conversation” Featurette
• “Between Two Worlds” Featurette
• “A Conversation with Peter Weir” Featurette
• EPK Featurettes
• Deleted Scene
• Trailer
• Image Gallery
• Blu-ray Copy
• 60-Page Booklet
• Double-Sided Poster
• 6 Postcards


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Witness: Collector's Edition [4K UHD] (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 16, 2023)

After 1977’s Star Wars brought Harrison Ford to fame, 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark truly made him a star. However, some questioned whether or not Ford could ever attain success in a film not connected to George Lucas.

In 1985, Witness finally broke Ford out of that mold. For once, Ford worked in something outside of the action genre and inside the real world. This resulted in some of the best critical notices of his career along with his first – and to date, only – Oscar nomination.

The film opens in the Amish parts of Pennsylvania, as we see the funeral of Jacob Lapp. His widow Rachel (Kelly McGillis) and young son Samuel (Lukas Haas) try to take the train to visit her sister in Baltimore, but they get stuck at the station in Philly.

While he takes a bathroom break, Samuel witnesses the murder of a police officer. Book heads the investigation, and after many dead ends, Samuel identifies the killer: narcotics Lieutenant James McFee (Danny Glover).

Fellow Philly cop John Book (Ford) entrusts his superior, Chief Paul Schaeffer (Josef Summer), with this information, but it promptly comes back to haunt him. Clearly Schaeffer is in cahoots with the killer, as McFee tries to gun down Book.

John survives and manages to move Rachel and Samuel back home. As he recovers from a wound, he melds with the Amish community and also attempts to keep Rachel and Samuel safe from the corrupt cops.

In some ways the whole plot about the murder feels like a MacGuffin. It drives the story and gives Book a reason to spend time with the Amish, but the movie doesn’t really want to concern itself with that side of things.

Instead, it prefers to concentrate on Amish life and the relationship between Book and Rachel. It succeeds in both domains.

Ford and McGillis demonstrate excellent chemistry, and they make the most of their scenes together. Witness develops an extremely quiet, calm movie that rarely indulges in broad theatrics.

That means the actors must make the most out of looks and gestures, as they don’t have other gimmicks on which they can rely to show their feelings. McGillis and Ford allow those elements work very well, as they connect in a silent but clear manner.

I really like the subdued nature of the film in general. It never beats us over the head, as it prefers to hint at ideas rather than spell them out for us.

The movie treats us as intelligent folks who can connect the dots, which means surprisingly little exposition. And you know what?

That’s fine, as we can figure out what we need to know from the nuggets provided. We don’t require excessive exposition to let us understand the characters and situations.

Indeed, many aspects of the story benefit from this understated exploration. For instance, it’s abundantly clear from the start the fellow Amish farmer Daniel Hochleitner (Alexander Godunov) digs Rachel and that he becomes jealous of Book.

However, there’s never a discussion of this or any kind of confrontation scene. It all exists through those looks and gestures, which becomes a great way to go.

Many films would either treat the Amish as backwards relics or as ideals of basic living. Witness does neither, as it demonstrates the positives and the negatives of the Amish lifestyle.

On one hand, we see the great sense of community that binds them together, and this comes out best during the barn-raising sequence. On the other hand, the movie hints at Amish intolerance of outsiders or anyone who goes against the grain.

For instance, when we hear how Rachel will be “shunned” if she goes after Book, we get a clear idea that the Amish don’t like anything different. The flick doesn’t promote one side or the other, but it simply presents the ideas and lets us take them as we will.

This means Witness often deflates expectations. Take the scene in which some obnoxious townsfolk taunt the Amish.

They’re pacifists who refuse to fight back, but Book doesn’t follow that concept. He promptly beats the crap out of the jerks in what should be a rousing crowd-pleaser of a sequence.

But it’s not. When we delight in Book’s violence, we feel almost ashamed of ourselves for the emotion.

He gets a few seconds of visceral revenge but clearly is none the better for it. Book also appears to regret his betrayal of the Amish community immediately.

That sense of depth makes Witness special. Sure, it occasionally gives us what we normally want, and that’s fine.

The climactic battle offers a little taste of the standard action flick but doesn’t feel out of place. The film usually stays with uncommon reserve and subtlety that allows it to become something different.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Witness appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This turned into a largely effective Dolby Vision presentation.

For the most part, sharpness worked well. Some wide shots exhibited a bit of softness, but the majority of the movie gave us appealing delineation.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Outside of a “frozen” element attached to an early text card, grain seemed natural, and I detected no print flaws.

The palette of Witness favored muted tones, which made sense given its low-key production design. We got some blues and reds but a fairly brown feel dominated.

The 4K UHD reproduced the hues well. Its HDR added zing and punch to the colors.

Blacks seemed deep and tight, while low-light shots offered positive delineation. HDR gave whites and contrast extra impact. Nothing here made the image a showcase, but it reproduced the source well.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Witness, it felt satisfactory but unremarkable. That was to be expected from such a quiet film, and the mix opened matters up only sporadically.

The biggest use of the audio came during the climactic sequence. At that time, the surrounds came more actively into play with gunfire and other elements.

They also popped up during a thunderstorm as well as in the train station. Music spread moderately to the rears, with the most prominent example coming from a thumping drum sound during the climax.

Otherwise, the audio concentrated on the front. Maurice Jarre’s synthesizer score demonstrated solid stereo imaging, and the rest of the mix showed decent ambience. That was about all we got most of the time, as the quiet country setting didn’t lend itself to theatrics.

Audio quality was good, though the mix occasionally showed its age. Speech demonstrated mostly warm qualities, despite a little edginess for some lines such as Ford’s shouted dialogue in a quick shootout.

Music worked well. The score offered surprising depth and range, and it came across with nice clarity. Effects didn’t play a huge role, and they occasionally seemed a bit distorted.

However, they mostly sounded clear and accurate, and the smattering of louder scenes boasted good bass response. This was a restrained soundtrack that seemed fine for its era and for a movie of this one’s ambitions.

Note that the Arrow release also provided two alternate audio options, both of which offered LPCM 2.0 tracks. One gave us a “Home Video Mix” while the other delivered a “Theatrical Dolby Stereo” version.

Both offered pure stereo audio without any surround involvement. The front channels brought reasonable delineation and movement across those front speakers, though the soundfield remained without ambition.

As with the 5.1 remix, this lack of ambition didn’t turn into a surprise, but it did mean Witness could seem borderline monaural at times. Not much of sonic note occurred, as even the “showier” scenes stayed pretty subdued.

I didn’t note any obvious differences in the soundscapes between “Home Video” and “Theatrical”. While I feel sure these alterations exist, they didn’t become clear to me, as both boasted similarly restrained soundfields.

Both also came with similar audio, and those tones largely felt similar to what I heard from the 5.1 track. That remix might bring a little more kick, but I didn’t discern any significant differences in terms of sound quality among the three.

Did I prefer one of the three to the others? Not really.

I do tend to lean toward original tracks, so in the future, I would likely opt for the “Theatrical” track, especially since “Home Video” felt so similar that it became semi-redundant. I did appreciate the extra involvement of the 5.1 mix, however, so it gives us a more than viable alternative.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the 2023 Arrow Blu-ray? Both came with identical audio options.

The Dolby Vision image showed improvements in terms of definition, colors and blacks. The nature of the source restricted growth to a degree, but the 4K turned into the moderately more satisfying rendition of the film.

Note that Witness made its Blu-ray debut in 2015. Unfortunately, I never saw that one so I can’t compare the 4K release to it.

Arrow’s 2023 release mixes old and new categories, and these lead off with a fresh audio commentary from film historian Jarret Gahan. He provides a running look at the movie’s roots and long development, story/character/script, cast and crew, the film’s release, reception and legacy.

You’ll note the absence of the term “scene-specific” in the prior paragraph. If Gahan ever directly comments on what we see, I missed it.

This makes the commentary more of an “audio essay”, and that seems fine with me given the level of preparation invested into the track. Gahan covers a wide array of subjects and does so in a brisk and informative manner that ensures we find a terrific look at the film.

Between Two Worlds: The Making of Witness spans one hour, three minutes, 55 seconds. Created for the DVD, we get notes from director Peter Weir, producer Edward S. Feldman, director of photography John Seale, and actors Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Lukas Haas, Patti LuPone, and Viggo Mortensen.

We learn of the original script and the project’s development, how Weir and others came onto the project, the interaction between Weir and Ford, research by Ford and McGillis, casting, changes in the story, problems with the ending, shooting in Amish country and connected complications.

We also hear about Ford’s attitude on the set and character development, Weir’s methods, cinematographic choices, working with a child actor, issues related to the scene in which Haas handles a gun, the movie’s comedic moments, the use of music, the barn-raising scene, sex, dialogue and violence in the film, and the movie’s legacy. “

Worlds” uses a somewhat scattershot approach and doesn’t come across as the most coherent view of the production. That said, it offers plenty of fine information about the project.

The inclusion of major participants like Weir and Ford certainly helps, and all involved present frank and intriguing notes about the production. “Worlds” works well and provides a solid overview of Witness.

In addition, we find one deleted scene. Described as being “from the network TV airing”, this clip runs four minutes, 10 seconds.

It shows additional interaction between John’s sister Elaine and Rachel when John stows the two Amish folks at her house overnight. It gives us some decent character insight, but it takes away from the movie’s focus and was a good cut.

Other than the movie’s trailer, the remaining extras didn’t appear on the old DVD. The Eye of the Witness runs 14 minutes, 48 seconds and brings a 2023 interview with cinematographer John Seale.

As expected, Seale mainly discusses lighting and photography, but he also gets into influences and other production areas. Seale brings us a solid overview of his work.

Show… Don’t Tell lasts 15 minutes, 16 seconds. It delivers a 2023 visual essay with info from film journalist Staci Layne Wilson.

Here we learn about cast/crew as well as production elements, research, and thoughts about the film’s techniques. Some of this repeats from the commentary, but enough fresh material appears to make “Show” worth a look.

Next comes Harrison Ford in Conversation. Shot in 1985, this reel goes for seven minutes, six seconds.

As Ford chats with critic Bobbie Wygant, he covers what appealed to him about the movie as well as its place in his filmography and other aspects of Hollywood fame. Wygant doesn’t ask very interesting questions and Ford doesn’t become a particularly compelling subject.

A Conversation with Peter Weir offers another archival piece. From 1999, it runs seven minutes, 16 seconds.

The director tells us how he came to the project, casting, and some notes about the shoot. This offers a short but useful chat.

Under EPK Featurettes, we find two circa 1985 reels. Together they span nine minutes, 22 seconds and involve Weir, Ford and McGillis.

In these segments, we hear about cast/character and production basics. Nothing especially informative appears, as these clips exist to promote the movie and not much more.

An Image Gallery presents 74 stills that mix shots from the set, movie elements and posed photos. It emphasizes those last two categories and becomes a dull compilation.

In addition to these disc-based materials, the set includes six collector’s postcards, a 60-page booklet with essays and production notes, and a fold-out poster. My discs-only copy lacked these materials, but I wanted to mention them.

Unusually calm and restrained, Witness benefits from its lack of hysterics. Its reserved nature allows it to become something different when compared to the standard cop movie. The 4K UHD brings solid picture and audio as well as a good collection of bonus materials. We find a fine presentation for a quality movie.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of WITNESS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main