Witness for the Prosecution Witness for the Prosecution
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Film Date :   February 8, 1985
Genre :   Thriller Crime Mystery   
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Witness for the Prosecution

Witnessis a 1985 American thriller film directed by Peter Weir and starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis . The screenplay by William Kelley , Pamela Wallace , and Earl W. Wallace focuses on a detective protecting a young Amish boy who becomes the target of a ruthless killer after he witnesses a murder in Philadelphia .

The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won two, for Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing . It was also nominated for seven BAFTA Awards , winning one for Maurice Jarre 's score, and was also nominated for six Golden Globe Awards . William Kelley and Earl W. Wallace won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay and the 1986 Edgar Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay presented by the Mystery Writers of America . The film is also notable as the screen debut of future star Viggo Mortensen . The film's script is a frequent model for budding screenwriters, often used to display clear structure in a script.

Rachel Lapp ( Kelly McGillis ), a young Amish widow, and her 8-year-old son Samuel ( Lukas Haas ) are traveling by train to visit Rachel's sister. At the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia , little Samuel witnesses a brutal murder. Captain John Book ( Harrison Ford ) is the policeman assigned to the case.

The young Samuel Lapp witnessed the murder, a slashing, in the bathroom, and escaped the killers' detection by hiding in a stall. Book and his partner, Sergeant Carter (Brent Jennings) question Samuel. Initially he is unable to identify the perpetretor from mug shot photographs or an identity parade , but notices a newspaper cutting at the police station with a picture of highly regarded narcotics officer James McFee ( Danny Glover ) and recognizes him as the killer. Book remembers that McFee was previously responsible for a drug raid where evidence was never reported to the police department.

Unbeknownst to Book, his superior officer, Chief Paul Schaeffer ( Josef Sommer ) is also involved in the corruption. When Book tells him his suspicions, Schaeffer advises Book to keep the case secret so they can work out how to move forward with it. As Book returns home, he is ambushed by McFee in a parking garage, nearly killed, badly wounded. Since only Schaeffer had been told, Book realizes Schaeffer must have warned McFee and is in on everything.

With a sense of urgency, Book asks his partner Carter to remove and destroy the entire Lapp file. Book then hides his Dodge and uses his sister's VW to return Rachel and Samuel to Lancaster County. After the Lapp's safe arrival in rural Pennsylvania, Book collapses from loss of blood in his vehicle in front of the Lapp farm.

Refusing hospitalization, Book is gradually tended back to health by the Amish. As John Book heals, he begins to develop feelings for Rachel. The Lapps' neighbor, Daniel Hochleitner ( Alexander Godunov ) had himself hoped to court her and this becomes a cause of friction. Later Rachel and John are caught dancing – a disrespect to the conservative Amish way of life. Rachel’s father-in-law, Eli, takes her aside and warns that if she continues she could be shunned (ostracized) by the community.

Meanwhile Book is still avoiding police detection, the gauntlet tightening, Book is informed via payphone that his partner Carter has since died on duty. While still in town, Hochleitner and the other Amish men are harassed by local thugs who assuming from Book's traditional attire that he too is Amish. Breaking with the Amish tradition of nonviolence, Book retaliates. The fight gets notice from the local townspeople and is reported to the police. The news reaches Schaeffer.

John subsequently comes upon Rachel as she bathes, and she stands naked without shame before him. The two realize they are in love and meet secretly. Rachel removes her bonnet and kisses John passionately.

McFee, Schaeffer, and "Fergie" Ferguson ( Angus MacInnes ), the second killer at the train station, arrive at the Lapp farm with loaded pump action shotguns . Book, unarmed and in the barn talking with Samuel, orders Samuel to run to the neighbors for safety. The trio split up and search for Book. John tricks Fergie into the corn silo and suffocates him under tons of corn. He retrieves Fergie's shotgun and kills McFee. A crazed Schaeffer then forces Rachel and Eli out of the house at gunpoint; Eli signs to Samuel (who returned unseen upon hearing gunfire) to ring the warning bell. Although Schaeffer briefly forces Book to surrender to him, the loud clanging summons all other Amish within earshot. With so many witnesses present it is clear to Schaeffer that he cannot escape, and he finally gives his gun to Book and collapses.

As Schaeffer is taken by local police and Book prepares to leave, he shares a quiet moment with Samuel, then exchanges a silent, loving gaze with Rachel. Eli bids Book goodbye for his return to Philadelphia by saying, "you be careful out among the English [i.e., non-Amish]", the same as he had said to Rachel at the beginning of the film, showing Book that he now respects him comparably to the people of his own faith. As Book drives away from the Lapp farm, he passes Hochleitner, presumably on his way to court Rachel, and exchanges an amicable wave of farewell.

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