Year Released: 1985
Directed by: Peter Weir
Starring: Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Lukas Haas
(R, 112 min.)
Genre: Drama, Mystery and Suspense, Romance
“One man of courage makes a majority.” Andrew Jackson
Harrison Ford is at his best in this 1985 thriller about a no nonsense detective trying to save himself and an 8-year-old Amish witness to a murder. The performance earned the actor his sole Oscar nomination in a “surprisingly emotive and sympathetic performance.”
His co-star, Kelly McGinnis, also shows a sensitivity and range that differ from the iconic role as Tom Cruise’s love interest in Top Gun she would take the following year.
This is a film that defies genres and formulas. Yes, it’s a thriller of sorts, but one without squealing car chases or tortuous plots twists. And it’s a romance, as well, but a shy and rather chaste one at that. In fact, it’s Ford rather than the lady who makes that decision.
But that doesn’t mean we are left without thrills. Take, for instance, the scene of the murder, where young Samuel Lapp (Lukas Haas) accidentally sees a planned homicide just as he’s about to exit a public restroom stall. He eyes open in transfixed horror as the bloody deed is executed with lethal swiftness, the cool and calm murderer taking time to wash his hands before leaving. Throughout the film Director Peter Weir is particularly good at communicating emotion in this nonverbal way.
We cower right along side young Samuel as the killer, McFee (Danny Glover), searches the stalls after hearing a sound. Here the camera takes its time, chronicling each door being opened and slammed shut. We wait for him to get to Samuel’s stall and gasp at what happens when he does.
This isn’t just some two-bit murder; it is a planned homicide of a police officer, and some dirty cops and higher ups are responsible. Before very long, the honest investigating officer John Book (Harrison Ford) is on the run himself, high tailing it out of town with Samuel and his mother Rachel (Kelly McGillis).
A bullet wound sidelines the detective in the Amish farm community, where Rachel nurses him through a rough recovery. The stoic detective and the shy Amish widow share a chemistry even if their conversation is awkward, especially when she suggests Book wear her husband’s old clothes so he will not stand out as a stranger.
Rachel Lapp: I should tell you this kind of coat doesn't have buttons. See? Hooks and eyes.
John Book: Something wrong with buttons?
Rachel Lapp: Buttons are proud and vain, not plain.
John Book: Got anything against zippers?
Rachel Lapp: Are you making fun of me?
John Book: No.
Before long the recovering detective is reading more about manure than he ever wanted to in local magazines, and he is actually milking cows, albeit rather clumisly:
Eli Lapp: You never had you hands on teat before?
John Book: Not one this big.
Even Rachel’s bearded father-in-law gets a grand guffaw out of that response, but he isn't as cheerful when he discovers Rachel and John slow dancing to Book's car radio in the barn. Nor is would-be suiter Daniel (Allexander Godunov), who hopes for John Book's recovery for other than altruistic reasons.
In fact, we become so comfortable in this somewhat idyllic rural life that the corrupt cops, looking to finish what their first bullet failed to do, almost fade from our minds. Until a trip to town gives away one telling detail.
The final minutes return us to thriller category with a wonderful showdown at the farm. Our detective is without a gun against 3 shotgun-wielding professions, but he uses his new familiarity with the farm to improve his odds. With a little assist from the peace-loving Amish. You will not be disappointed in the final clash, but you still may not like the ending.
The characters here guide the plot, not the other way around, which sadly has become all too common recently. They may not always do what you want, but they are true to themselves.
Enjoy this classic now on Amazon Prime streaming.
Outsider Detective John Book finally gets some respect from the Amish community when he shows his carpentry skills. All the men work together to frame a house, hoisting the rafters as a team and then balancing on the upper beams to secure them. Harrison Ford’s Detective Book holds his own with the best of them, even though he is healing from a gunshot wound.
Perhaps that’s because as a young actor Ford himself worked full time as a carpenter until he got his big break playing Han Solo.
All the while, the women watch, stitch quilts, and serve and prepare a spread of food for the menfolk.
Let’s enjoy this hearty Amish Breakfast Casserole. It is as delicious as it looks. Enjoy!
Amish Breakfast Casserole
"This hearty casserole has bacon, eggs, hash browns, and three different cheeses all baked into a comforting breakfast dish, perfect for feeding a crowd." Parothstein
1 pound sliced bacon, diced
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed
9 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups small curd cottage cheese
1 1/4 cups shredded Swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; cook and stir bacon and onion until bacon is evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain. Transfer bacon and onion to a large bowl. Stir in potatoes, eggs, Cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, and Swiss cheese. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.
Bake in preheated oven until eggs are set and cheese is melted, 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving.