Witness

Inciting Event: The Amish boy Samuel witnesses a murder in the train station bathroom in Philadelphia.

First Plot Point: Samuel tells the police detective John Book that celebrated narcotics officer McFee is the murderer.

First Pinch Point: After Book tells the chief of police what happened, McFee comes after him and shoots him, forcing book to go on the run with Samuel and his mother Rachel.

Midpoint: Book’s partner tells him it’s much too hot for him to come back, so Book settles in to stay with the Amish.

Second Pinch Point: The police chief threatens Book’s partner. Back on the farm, Rachel’s father-in-law finds her dancing with Book and warns her she might be shunned if she continues to fall in love with him. These two pinch points, back to back, emphasizing the two sides of the plot, offer a lovely symmetry. The police chief talks about how the police are a “cult” similar to the Amish, in that they both have their own set of rules that must be played by or the offending member will be “shunned”—a clear warning to Book’s partner.

Third Plot Point: Book learns his partner has been killed. Distraught, he beats up a group who are bullying the pacifist Amish. This allows the local sheriff to ID him as the man the Philadelphia police are looking for.

Climax: The police chief, McFee, and their partner arrive at the Amish community, armed with shotguns, to take down Book.

Climactic Moment: After Book kills the two other cops and the Amish community shows up to help, the police chief surrenders.

Resolution: Book says goodbye to Samuel and Rachel and goes back to his world.

Notes: The most notable thing about this movie’s plot points is how subtle they are (with a few obvious exceptions). The First Plot Point is very quiet in comparison to the pinch point that follows. The Midpoint, Second Pinch Point, and Third Plot Point all essentially happen offscreen with Book’s partner receiving the brunt of the tension from the antagonists.

In most stories this wouldn’t work, but it works here because the story is clearly more about Book’s time and personal transformation among the Amish than the murder mystery. The action-driven plot points serve to keep the plot tight and focused without pull the emphasis away from the heart of the story.

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