Friday, 4 December 2009

I Swear I Didn't See Anything...

Is it just me, or is Peter Weir one of the greatest directors ever to walk the face of the earth, ever? The number of times I have gone into his films expecting to be disappointed only to be amazed. Similar to Jane Campion, I guess, though I think Peter Weir brings home the better bacon time and time again. The Truman Show - didn't think I'd really rate it, but did in a big way. Master And Commander - expected crap, but was noisily impressed.

He seems to pull in people you may not expect greatness from (Jim Carrey springs to mind, and I liked Russell Crowe much more than I think I ever have in his Weir turn) and then make them brilliant. And films that might otherwise sound a bit naff, he turns them around and creates cinematic masterpieces from. From Gallipoli (has a closing frame ever been so impacting?) to Dead Poets Society to Picnic At Hanging Rock to his latest, Master And Commander. He's a man of not too many films but quite a lot of brilliance.

Witness, interestingly, received much awards attention, but isn't by any means my favourite of his films. I don't know what would be my favourite (there are a few that come to mind, but I couldn't choose between them), but it definitely wouldn't be this one. And I don't really understand the praise heaped on Harrison Ford for his role as Detective John Book. He just looked like Harrison Ford doing pretty much what Harrison Ford does (can I say Harrison Ford again this post? Yes. Harrison Ford.)

Don't get me wrong, I don't think it was a bad film. I thought it was a good film. I just didn't think it was a great film.

The film centres around the murder of an undercover narcotics officer witnessed by a young Amish lad, Samuel (played by Lukas Haas - another child actor grown up good) whilst he is en route with his mother to visit his aunt. Harrison Ford (there we are again. Harrison Ford.) plays the aforementioned Det. Book, assigned to investigate the murder. It quickly turns out that this murder goes to the top, involved much corruption, and means that Samuel, his mother and Book are all in danger of losing their lives. Naturally, they retire to an Amish community to hide. Hilarity of course ensues as Book tries to fit in as Amish, despite the fact that the world he comes from is entirely different. The inevitable love story between Book and Samuel's mother Rachel (Kelly McGillis) swims along nicely despite all obstacles standing in their ways (like the fact that Book isn't, in fact Amish, carries a gun and swears a fair bit.) It all plays very nice and Hollywood.

I think that's my primary issue with this film when compared to Weir's other films. His others do conform to a lot of Hollywood necessities, but they always manage to go above and beyond them at the same time to create something a little different, a little special. Witness didn't really seem to achieve that. It played to me like a fish out of water romantic drama. Yes, it was acted well, even by Ford - roles like this fit him like a glove - and it looked nice, but it just didn't stand out. I feel that in five years time I'll remember that I've seen it but very little else.

It was fun to play 'spot Viggo Mortensen' in his first film role. And it was an otherwise enjoyable film. 3 stars. I'm looking forward to Weir's next film The Way Back, with Colin Farrell and Saoirse Ronan. Very interested to see it when it (hopefully) releases next year.

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