Let’s face it; Harrison Ford is not a particularly great actor. He is not capable of playing diversity in his roles, and he has never faded into a character. When you go to see a Harrison Ford movie, the result is always something like “Harrison Ford as the President of the United States”, or “Harrison Ford is wrongly accused of a crime he didn’t commit.” Never once have I seen one of his films and came away saying “it is about this professor that goes on a quest to find the holy grail. Harrison Ford played the profe…sor.”
Having said this, I like Harrison Ford. He happens to be one of those personalities, much like William H. Macy, that is comfortable and pleasant to watch on screen. He always handles each role with care, and is never content to let a role slip by without putting effort into the feelings and intentions of the character. He is much like the great Gregory Peck in this regard, as some of Harrison the man always comes through in the characters he plays. He is always genuine, always true to himself.
Ford’s status as a genuine and likable everyman is particularly effective in this film, as he takes on the role of Detective John Book, a homicide detective in New York City who goes undercover in Amish country to protect a murder witness. His job as an actor in this film is to depict a hardened cop’s transformation into a basic, simple and genuine life. This is a role tailor-made for Ford, and one that he received a well-deserved nomination for Best Actor for.
The audio on this disc is much like the film itself… simple and subdued. While this film is not filled with explosions and action, the few instances of gunshots sound loud and clear, and are very effective with a sparse musical score. Birds, crickets and the wind are clearly heard in the background of many scenes, which is a very effective method of placing the viewer in the film’s environment. Dialog is often times soft, but it is always clear for those who will take the time to listen.
There are segments in this film that are very grainy, but that is mercifully not the rule. The darker the scene, the more grain. Outside scenes, however, look quite clear. The same can be said for the color, as well lit outdoor scenes are typically filled with bright colors, while indoor scenes appear dull and washed-out. This is clearly an issue that has much more to do with the way the film was originally shot than with the transfer to disc.
There is really only one main extra on this disc, but is is a big one. Between Two Worlds – The Making of Witness is a 75-minute, 5 part documentary that digs into the challenges and joys of creating this film, and duplicating the world and culture of the Amish people. It is clear that the filmmakers have great respect for the Amish, and they wished to represent their way of life accurately and honorably.
Other extras include one deleted scene from the TV version of the film, some TV spots, the original theatrical trailer and a series of previews for other Paramount DVD products.
Witness was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. In the end, however, the film only won two awards, one for Editing and one for the film’s Screenplay. While Ford has made more popular films, this one is clearly his best acting performance, and one that is easily worthy of an Oscar.
Special Features List
- Between Two Worlds – The Making of Witness 5 Part Documentary
- Deleted Scene
- TV Spots
- Theatrical Trailer