Daryll Deever (William Hurt) is a Vietnam veteran who works as a night janitor in a New York City office building. This quiet young man loves animals, motorcycles, and TV. Late one evening as he is leaving work, he discovers the corpse of a Vietnamese tenant who has been brutally assassinated. When the police question Deever, he denies knowing anything about the murder.
Tony Sokolow (Sigourney Weaver) is an attractive television reporter. She is also an accomplished pianist and filthy rich. Her fiancé, Joseph (Christopher Plummer), is a Jewish activist involved in efforts to buy freedom from Soviet Jews. He's a zealot willing to do anything to advance his cause.
Daryll Deever and Tony Sokolow meet outside the building where he works when she is assigned to do a story on the murder. Daryll is a fan, who watches her show on his home videotape machine every night. As she tries to interview him, he boldly declares his love. Convinced that Deever knows something about the murder, Tony has lunch with him. Later, they go to bed. Is she using him? Is he in love with her or the image of her on TV?
Deever's friend, Aldo (James Woods), is another Vietnam vet. He's full of get-rich-quick schemes. And Aldo's so hungry for a family that he pushes his buddy into a relationship with his sister Linda (Pamela Reed). Neither of them want to play the husband and wife parts in Aldo's happy family fantasy.
The two policeman (Steven Hill and Morgan Freeman) on the murder case joke that as a child, Aldo must have wanted to grow up to be a suspect everything he does make them think he is the killer. Tony remarks that an Israeli woman, a friend of Joseph's, "looks so calm it's as if she had one decision to make in her life and she's made it." Then there are Tony's parents who are overprotective and Deever's folks whose marriage is a shambles.
These vivid and idiosyncratic characters populating Eyewitness engage our interest and attention throughout. Steve Tesich's literate screenplay is both witty and revealing; he constantly keeps us off balance and refuses to let us peg anyone down. The dramatic fireworks at the end of the film give director Peter Yates a chance to do his "Bullitt" thing. And he does it well.
Eyewitness is a thoroughly engrossing thriller. But the real suspense, which Tesich and Yates treat so effectively, is the mystery of personal relationships. The same humanistic qualities which made Breaking Away so special are evident here. And the performances by William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and James Woods are outstanding.