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a gritty, incredibly well-acted, suspenseful, thought-provoking crime drama thriller
YJLcool22 September 2013
Prisoners is a gritty, incredibly well-acted, suspenseful, thought-provoking crime drama thriller. The film mainly focus on the choices taken and the consequences faced by the characters when worst things happen to them.

It simply raises the question: When your kid's life is at stake, how far are you willing to do to protect your family? It explores the likelihood of human behaviour when such crime is happening to us, blurring the lines between good and bad people.

For a 153 minute movie, the story does unfolds at a slow and solemn pace (which hurts the film and might bore some audiences) but the dramatic scenes performed by the main cast members in the film will keep you engaged. Hugh Jackman and Jack Gyllenhaal both giving intense, Oscar-worthy performances here, defining and developing their characters with various layers of emotions: affection, anger, grief, empathy, guilt...throughout the film.

The film's atmosphere, heavy rains, stormy days and icy cold winter managed to create a dark, dreadful environment to make up the dreary and haunting mood in the film. Every violent action taken by the characters are acts of desperation given that they are running out of time.

However, the film is not perfect. Despite some plot problems from the various twists and turns shown in the film, the superb performances from the casts was sufficient enough to make the story succeed and believable.

Highly recommended for those who wanted to watch a serious drama thriller with powerful, engaging acting performances from its talented casts.
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A brilliant masterpiece of atmosphere and suspense
Potty-Man20 September 2013
This was one intense movie-going experience. Throughout the entire running time of the movie, the suspense never lets up.

The director masterfully weaves the haunting atmosphere, and I was at the edge of my seat. The plot is a wonderful puzzle, unraveling slowly to reveal hidden layers of depth and complexity. The acting was wonderful, emotional and nuanced, with some unforgettable moments (The two leads - Gyllenhaal and Jackman - give their career best performances, but the biggest achievement in my opinion is Paul Dano's). The musical score contributes to a sense of dread, as well as the rich sound design and the chilly color palette of the breathtaking cinematography.

All those parts add up to a rare, gut-wrenching, dark and fascinating masterpiece - the kind that lingers with you long after the credits roll.
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'Prisoners' is a tightly wound thriller featuring career bests from Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal...
ClaytonDavis17 September 2013
There is a sensitivity that Director Denis Villenueve and writer Aaron Guzikowski inhabit in bringing their newest film "Prisoners" from Warner Bros. to the screen. Starring an Academy Award nominated cast that includes Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terence Howard, Maria Bello, Viola Davis, Oscar-winner Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano, this is a smartly constructed and emotionally resound mystery thriller that is thoroughly enjoyable.

The synopsis is fully in the trailer. When two young girls go missing, one belonging to Keller and Grace (Jackman and Bello), the other to Franklin and Nancy (Howard and Davis), a hot-shot detective (Gyllenhaal) is assigned to the case and relentlessly tries to find the clues that could lead to the whereabouts of the missing. When a mentally handicapped Alex Jones (Dano) is found near the scene of the disappearance with no hard evidence, Keller takes matters into his own hands.

I have to say that I've never been this hypnotized with the works of Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Jackman, who is fresh of his inaugural nomination for Tom Hooper's "Les Miserables" has capitalized in a massive way. Approaching his character with the ferocity that made him a star in the "X-Men" franchises, he hammers his way into every scene, keeping the audience guessing about their own moral complexities. He tears into scenes in a way we've never seen him and layers his character with plenty of affection, empathy, grief, and rage. It's his best dramatic endeavor he's ever done.

When it comes to Jake Gyllenhaal, many, and probably for the right reasons, gravitate towards his work in Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain" as his shining moment in film history. I believe he's gone deeper in works like "Jarhead" and "Zodiac" but those were just the surface of what he can do as an actor. As Detective Loki, Gyllenhaal stands firm and tall in one of the year's finest performances. Terrifically executed as a man disconnected from real emotion, he finds himself enamored by the mystery surrounding two missing girls. He also orchestrates character beats and ticks that's reminiscent of Joaquin Phoenix's towering work in "The Master" last year.

What is very refreshing in the film is it offers a great reminder of how brilliant an actor Terence Howard is. The Oscar-nominated actor seemed to fall by the wayside following his nomination for "Hustle and Flow" in 2006, coincidentally the same year Gyllenhaal snagged his first, and now has realized his capabilities when he chooses more dynamic and passionate characters. In a film that centers around his involvement, Paul Dano doesn't have too much to offer but is completely adequate in form.

The film however is not entirely perfect. Aaron Guzikowski's depth screenplay offers a great mystery story, full of twists and turns, all the bit a tad predictable, but that's not where he falters so much. His construction of the female counterparts, Maria Bello, Viola Davis, and Melissa Leo, are not as crisply or smoothly put together as I'd like them to be. They each have one "scene" that gives us their character's motivation and the look into their cinematic psyche however, some are thrown in quite lazily and manages to halt the story in spots.

The film's technical merits all rise to the abilities of its cast. Roger Deakins, the most overdue Cinematographer in the business, captures stunning portraits of conversations, weather, and scenes that continue to prove his brilliance in the film world. The film's score is masterfully placed by Jóhann Jóhannsson while Joel Cox and Gary Roach edit the film to an impeccable pace.

At 153 minutes, the film is detailed, precise, and engaging nearly throughout. I feel there's a shorter cut of the film that would surely be a Best Picture nominee for this year's Academy Awards if it existed. The film could still garner that support with what they have now, but I think there are aspects of the film members won't be able to get around. A high level of violence and torture scenes infused with a longer run time could keep people at a distance. One thing that can't be denied is the towering works of Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. The two have offered plenty of memorable performances in their filmography, but their work in "Prisoners" is cut and clear their best they've offered.

"Prisoners" is a magnificent achievement for the film year. Thorough, enigmatic, and purely amazing. A must-see for the movie lovers.

The film opens in theaters this Friday, September 20.
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A True (and terrific) Exploration of Moral Ambiguity
FilmMuscle26 September 2013
Wow, what an intensely suspenseful film Prisoners was. The film commences with a naturalistic and peaceful look of a suburban neighborhood, leafless trees calmly swaying along with the cool air that encompass them. All is fine, and a perfectly normal family visits their friends/neighbors for a delightful dinner and some music. Everything is fine and dandy until both family's two kids run off to retrieve a toy they left outside. After pleasant conversation, the two families begin to realize that their kids haven't gotten back yet. The noiseless environment around them feels incredibly unusual, and once they realize that their kids have officially gone missing, chaos breaks loose. We are suddenly presented with a ruthless father (played by Hugh Jackman) who loves his daughter so much that he's willing to transcend any morally difficult obstacles to hopefully locate her.

A spectacular cast, ranging from the likes of Hugh Jackman to Jake Gyllenhaal to Viola Davis and Terrence Howard, create such a chilling atmosphere that everyone in the audience immediately notices the discomforting subject matter as they prepare for a disturbing viewing. One should know prior to visiting the movie theater that this film doesn't feature morally perfect individuals. They are all human beings cast into an unbelievably frightening situation, and this is where larges amounts of debate will stir. There's one side of the audience that will persistently detest the characters' actions and the characters themselves, and there's the other side (which I am proudly a part of) that will essentially understand that people can't possibly (always) be the "goody-two-shoes" heroes, perceived in Hollywood blockbusters, in reality- that, by god, I will partake morally and ethically questionable activities to save a precious, loved one, absolutely! Such conversation/argument is healthy for it proves the memorability factor of the film itself. After you witness the terrifically-crafted picture, you will find enjoyment in discussing the movie's events with friends and family with- eventually- two sides forming over the talk.

And holy crap is Hugh Jackman entirely convincing in his performance. You can see the longing to find his sweet, innocent daughter through his miserable eyes, filled with redness, desperation, and anger. Then, there's Jake Gyllenhaal as the second lead, playing an ambitious cop who holds a very impressive resume: no unsolved cases left under his plate. Can that mean his skill will greatly help in this predicament? On a similar note, Paul Dano takes the prize after Hugh Jackman for another wonderful performance. No offense or anything, but he completely fits into these immensely creepy and eerie roles.

Speaking of, the soundtrack will definitely remain in that shocked mind of yours long after you've left the theater because it fills us with a sense of hopelessness and discomfort. At times, it sounds exceptionally ominous with the disconcerting sound of those violins in play. At others, it sounds like the music weeps for all those involved. The pace never seems to drag even though it clocks in at around 150 minutes as you remain at the edge of seat the entire time, utterly perplexed by everything that's transpiring and wholly befuddled by the choices that these people are making. The film will make you cringe and question the humanity of the participants or the competence of our law (that word could mean two things). Although I was slightly disappointed with the end result, the majority of the film strongly intrigued me. And, oh, how could I forget, the cinematography is simply amazing. Roger Deakins, the brilliant cinematographer behind last year's Skyfall, manages the camera-work of this film as well. As one wise critic said, a drive in the rain never felt so disquieting- a moment of foreboding.

Furthermore, I would not recommend skipping out on Prisoners unless you're of the type that prefers more lighthearted and fun movies like The Avengers. If you love films that explore more than just entertainment and "fun," such as important themes and moral ambiguity as a whole, you cannot go wrong with Prisoners. With a mix of top-notch cinematography, remarkably unsettling music, superb performances, and a thrilling/powerful story, Prisoners will definitely be one of this year's features that I'll surely be remembering. The true cinema season has started; now, let's hope every film from here on out delivers like this one did.
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Hugh Jackman's finest role?
will-vanduzer6 September 2013
Hugh Jackman takes you on a trip through the intense emotions a family is put through during its darkest hour. This may be his best role to date. From the trailers you know that his character will be out for blood as their daughter was kidnapped, but throughout the film you feel his pain, anger and moral struggles as he deals with this situation. The director does an excellent job of keeping you invested in the film emotionally even through some intensely violent scenes. Its dreary setting provides no comfort, but goes hand and hand with the narrative. This film may not be for those faint of heart but should be a must see for most viewers.
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Jackman Shines in Villeneuve Classic
gregsrants9 September 2013
Prisoners, the new film from Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Polytechnique), is a top notch nail-biting crime-drama that is as good a theatre as modern Hollywood has the ability to produce.

Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello play the parental figures of the Dover family. They are your average hard-working blue-collar family who begin their story by visiting neighbours Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) for a Thanksgiving dinner. The Franklins and the Dover's each have two children, the youngest of which (Anna and Joy) head out from their home on a November afternoon to play only to mysteriously disappear.

Upon a frantic search, the Franklins and the Dover's suspect the worse. Especially when their elder children tell them of a mysterious camper that was parked just down the street. Police soon find the camper with Alex Jones (Paul Dano) behind the wheel. Alex has the mentality of a 10-year-old and tries fleeing when surrounded by authorities. But when Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) begins to interrogate Alex, he is less convinced that Alex was a part of the abduction. As days pass, Loki and Keller Doller work in opposite directions on the investigation. Keller is convinced that Alex Jones was a part of the abduction and kidnaps the frail and challenged Jones and tortures him for days in an attempt to extract answers. Meanwhile, Detective Loki follows leads that open up possibilities of a crime where multiple persons may be involved. And Oscar nominee Melissa Leo appears in a supporting but pivotal role that will assist in the closure.

The trailer for Prisoners may have audiences hearkening back to Ron Howard's Ransom, but this is hardly the cookie-cutter kidnapping film that Mel Gibson lead back in 1996. Prisoners instead is an engulfing drama. One with a superb performance by lead Hugh Jackman that challenges how far someone would/should go in an effort to locate their stolen child.

The script, from writer Aaron Guzikowski (Contrband) takes audiences down many different paths and emotional rides and Jackman's performance will have you rooting for his quest for answers even though his methods are unorthodox and highly illegal.

The film is gritty and full of realistic characters and situations culminating in a perfect ending that goes 9/10ths of the way in giving its audience full closure. Not as much an edge-of-your seat thriller as it is a Zodiac type of crime drama where the stakes are the lives of two small children.

Denis Villeneuve's last effort, Incendies, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2011. Prisoners shows that he can move solidly into big star larger scaled films with the ease of a well worn slipper. And Prisoners catapults Villeneuve into not just a director to watch, but a director whose work should be awaited with palpable excitement.
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Jackman shines in dark thriller
dsa422 November 2013
Prisoners movie review

Prisoners is a Mystery/Thriller film starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, and Paul Dano. Prisoners is a film about two families who both of their daughters get kidnapped and both of the families with the help of the police, investigate and look for their daughters. This is a very dark, grim, and at times is a hard film to sit through. That being said, I have created a PainOmeter scale out of five (five being the worst) to inform you guys if you simply cannot take very violent and painful scenes. This will be addressed along will the film's final score. I loved this film! Hugh Jackman plays Anna's father and is the protagonist of the film. You can see how Jackman really loses his rag and does a great job as Keller Dover. There is one scene that involves Jackman doing something that I won't spoil but you will notice it and go WOW! The story is also very thought provoking and will keep you on the edge of your seat because of the direction and character building involved with this movie. Also Paul Dano who plays Alex Jones, is this weird adult with the IQ of a ten year old and is the main suspect of the investigation. I thought he nailed just the right tone of the character and was hard to "look at" at times. My favorite part of the film was surprisingly Jake Gyllenhaal's performance as the detective looking for the missing girls. Gyllenhaal still plays the role of a cop very well after all of that training for End Of Watch. Another great part of the film is that it manages to never take a rest on character building and story development. I hate when films give you time to take a break then start all over again and this film really avoids that entirely. I really have no problems with the film except for the runtime. Even though this was a great movie I just couldn't go for a perfect grade of an A+. I will give Prisoners an A solid.
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Best movie of 2013!
QD_Gun19 September 2013
I just came back from the theater and to be honest I went into this movie with very low expectation! But WOW did it prove me wrong. The film left me on the edge of my seat all the time, one could argue things were slow sometimes but it only adds to the beauty of the big picture.

Performance are top notch and if it was for me I would give Jackman his very deserved Oscar for this amazing performance, of course all the other performances were really great also but Hugh's stands out for me.

This movie is worth your time, and I'm sure by the end of it you'll keep talking about it with your friends, for me that is a success stamp if the movie can keep my mind busy all the time.

This is not your feel-good movie. This is a perfectly paced thriller which I haven't seen anything like it in a very long time. For me this was a totally new experience as I usually go for lighter movies in the cinema, but after this movie I will go out of my comfort-zone in movies more often to find masterpieces like this one.
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corrosion-220 September 2013
Prisoners is extremely suspenseful and equally disturbing. Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, whose last film was the equally spellbinding and disturbing Incendies, builds up the tension from the first frame and does not let up for the full 153 minutes of the movie. Aaron Guzikowski's script, though on the surface a child kidnapping thriller, bucks all Hollywood trends and, as well as being a taut thriller, poses serious moral issues. It also helps that the film has a first rate cast doing outstanding work: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Terence Howard, Melissa Leo, Maria Bello and Viola Davis. Prisoners is not for the faint heated but is likely to feature strongly at next year's Oscars.
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153 minutes long because characters can't talk?
acorbaster13 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
It's a great movie, sensational, effective thriller, blah, blah , blah. I don't want to repeat things that have already been said. I'll just say what annoys me. Most tension in this movie comes from it's characters being unable to speak. What's up with that?

1.So we got this guy, who obviously has something to do with the kidnapping of the two girls, and as it turns out, he was the one who lured them into the van. It was a sloppy kidnapping, they immediately caught the suspect, but guess what,he can't (?)speak. They said that he is on a level of a ten year old, but he behaves as he is on a level of a three year old, but still, he has a driver license(?). So we then come to all the beating,torturing and all the screaming :'Tell me where are they?' If he said: it took them to my mothers house, the movie is over. So he was so resilient to torture or simply he was to stupid to make a sentence that makes sense. The later makes more sense, but on the other hand, it makes no sense at all.

2.Then comes the priest who has a rotten corp in his basement. But he just mumbles. Like he's a 3 year old as well. He isn't able to say any useful information. Who's the dead guy, what's his name , how he came to him (or with whom, with what vehicle etc, etc..) He just can't speak intelligible.

3. Them comes the guy who steals kid's clothing, using pig's blood, hiding it with snakes. He's intelligent enough to recognize a cop, to escape him, to, at the first moment, when the cop shows at his home, fool him by saying '' I've never seen you before''. But when they need to interrogate him, he is suddenly like a 3 year old, drawing and mumbling and drooling like a completely retarded person who's unable to say one sentence that makes sense. So we still don't know anything and the movie goes on.

4.Then comes the girl that escaped, she's in the hospital, but of course, she is not able to speak. Or else she would tell us where she was held, and the movie's over.

5.And finally , when they rescue the second girl, she doesn't seem to speak as well. Or else she would tell them about hidden basement in the yard with entrance hidden under the old car. But no...

So somewhere around 80 min into the movie , I had enough. I know that they wanted that exciting, disturbing thriller, exploring moral bipolarity of every human, dark (metaphorically and literally with all the rain and pale colors). But for me this was to much and last 30 minutes was like a torture.
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terrible bad story
christopherwilliammann14 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Just watched it. Acting great.

But this is so badly written --->

1 - HOW did the black girl escape! Her & her friend were drugged all the time? Oh, she just "managed" to get away -- she's in a locked room! Drugged! But she "manages" to get away . . . and another oh! her captor couldn't catch her! But the captor managed to get them the first time in broad daylight -- which is never explained!

2 - the captor knows one of her captives has escaped yet makes NO EFFORT to leave, clean up evidence, DO ANYTHING AT ALL, just stays there.

3 - and when girl says in hospital "you were there" Hugh Jackman runs away to make him look like the suspect; he doesn't bother to tell anyone - like the cops - I KNOW WHERE SHE'S TALKING ABOUT! LET'S GO NOW, IT'S THE CRAZY AUNT!

4 - why did the aunt not kill them after capture? Why do they need to stay alive?

5 - guy gets beaten & imprisoned in a cube of pain for a week, yet can't manage to articulate "my aunt did it." He was coherent enough to say "They only cried when I left them" to Hugh Jackman when Hugh Jackman grabs him by the throat in public; but he can't manage "after my aunt took them away" when Hugh Jackman beats him nearly to death?

6 - cop is angry, goes to his desk, throws things around, by CHANCE things fall on the floor & he sees a new CRUCIAL clue.

It's a movie of bad red herrings, and coincidence.

PS. Cop goes into a room of trunks and RUSHES to open one! It's full of SNAKES! Now if I opened up the first trunk in a room full of trunks and the first trunk was full of snakes, I don't think I would open all the other trunks, yet Cop wants to open more!
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What to Expect: Prisoners
ck1010198022 September 2013
Why You Might Like It: I can go on and on about the good things in this film and why most viewers will enjoy it. It has an outstanding cast that play their parts well, the directing and cinematography are gripping, and the story is something to marvel. This is an excellent film that I highly recommend.

Why You Might Not Like It: I don't know why anyone wouldn't enjoy the movie. It does run over 2 hours, so some movie-goers might think that is a bit too long, but I don't think this movie will lose anyone's interest.

Acting/Casting: 9.5* - As mentioned, the casting and acting is outstanding. Hugh Jackman gives the best performance of his career in my opinion. Paul Dano is downright creepy and plays his part to a tee. Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello and the rest of the cast do great work as well.

Directing/Cinematography/Technical: 8.5* - Let me just say that Denis Villeneuve has made his mark in the US after this one. The directing in this movie is gripping and pulls the viewer in from start to finish. I can't say enough about all of the small things that go into making the atmosphere in the movie amazing (the weather, the buildings, music, etc.)

Plot/Characters: 8.5* - This is arguably one of the better abduction/kidnapping stories that I have seen. The plot is deep and has many layers that keep the viewer guessing all the way up until the very end. There is no doubt that the story plays a huge role in the final product that you see on the screen.

Entertainment Value: 9* - It keeps you guessing throughout and on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Movies like this are why we go to the movies. Get out and see it.

My Score: 9.5+8.5+8.5+9 = 35.5/4 = 8.875 Email your thoughts to
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Clumsy storytelling that ultimately ruins a potentially good movie
Treacle-A3 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I had no expectations of this movie, as I was dragged along to see it by a mate with a Jake Gyllenhaal fixation, but was pleasantly surprised to find it was a bleak-seeming action/drama with Hugh Jackman too, who's generally excellent in everything he's in. The first 30 minutes or so of the movie were really promising. I liked the set-up of the 2 cozy families in their suburban idyll sharing a thanksgiving meal and discovering, to their horror, their kids had somehow gone missing. That part felt very real, very "based on a true story" and had me on the edge of my seat. As the film went on though, the clunky writing and flabby storytelling started to lose my interest.

#1. My first big problem came with the utterly implausible discovery of the body in the pedophile priest's basement. First of all, Gyllenhaal's decision to move the freezer based on the flex being dangerously stretched, just seemed...dumb. Why would he care if the guy stretches his flex? It didn't seem from his reaction ("drunks!") that he thought the freezer was hiding something, and yet he opts to shove the big heavy thing closer to the socket because presumably it bothers him. Then - whoa - there's a door there, and whoa it's a big cellar (which is not that weird really), and now - whoa - look a body!

#2. And next came a great big WHY? He's a pedophile catholic priest so why was he SO outraged that a man might kill kids. He abuses children but is still so horrified by a killer that he opts to kill the guy who's (again...utterly improbably) has come to him for confession, but not so horrified that he tells ANYONE the guy's story? Or attempts to find out if it's true before he offs him? Instead he just stuffs the body in the basement and drinks a lot. Hmm.

#3. My next problem was the biggest and clumsiest of the plot points. Gyllenhaal finds a body and hears a weird-ass tale about child murders (and presumably there's a not a lot of those locally), but despite his incredible intellect and ability to make connections, he doesn't spot the REALLY ODD MAZE NECKLACE on the body until the drawing falls conveniently from his desk alongside it, and make the connection between the two.

#4. Why is escaped and presumably traumatized kidnap victim Bob stealing children's clothes, covering them in pig's blood and putting them in boxes full of snakes? It would make sense if he was somehow part of the cover-up, or working for Alex's aunt, but he's not. So for some reason known only to himself he's stealing clothes and making it seem like Anna and Joy are dead when they're not. Presumably because he's traumatized. Or just mental. But either way, it's not really explained, it's just a great big red herring that confuses everything.

#5. What is the significance of Keller's dad's suicide? Because if there is no significance, why show Loki reading about it as if it's important? Presumably (again) it's so he can find out that the building that Keller's going to is where his dad died - but so what? Why is it important, other than to cloud the waters and confuse the audience even more. Was Keller connected to his father's suicide, why was no note found...all questions we have no need to ask.

#6. WTF is this all maze rubbish? Right from the poster we're led to expect some kind of maze to appear. The serial killer wears a necklace with a maze on it, Alex says "they're in the maze", Bob is obsessed with drawing mazes, so where's the freaking maze man? When Holly gets Keller to back the car up we think "FINALLY! HERE'S THE MAZE!!! But there's no maze down there, just a big deep hole full of old sneakers and dead snakes. No maze, not even a sniff of one. The only maze-related thing as it turns out, is a puzzle book that Leo forces the kids to do while they're kidnapped, presumably traumatizing them with their inability to solve simple puzzles. It might just as well have been Sudoku really, but that might have looked weird on a necklace...

#7. And finally, the pointless sub-plot. Just WHAT is the purpose and meaning behind Keller's kidnap and torture of Alex? It has no real purpose other than to provide a weirdly amoral counterpoint to the other story (which would have been so much better emphasized if we'd seen anything of the girls' captivity), and leaves us confused and kind of weirdly angry with the guy. Alex is an innocent child and Keller has tortured him almost to death, so what does that make him? A villain? An anti-hero? A misguided vigilante? No-one seems to care if we know, so we end up drawing no conclusion at all and Keller ends up as a shapeless figure that we ultimately care little about.

Ultimately my feeling was that this could have been a good film, if only someone with experience and a keen eye had been brought in to work on the script and iron out the many flaws. The cinematography and the score was great, and it's a testament to the director and actors that the movie was still highly watchable despite the glaring plot holes and confusing storytelling, but on the whole it was a disappointing and frustrating experience and not one I'd recommend.
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An overly long, grim and obvious drama with a lack of characters
The_After_Movie_Diner23 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The most complex thing to think about the film Prisoners is why any of the Oscar nominated or recognisably 'serious' actors agreed to be in it in the first place. While it is clearly meant to be, judging by the blind critical reaction, a tense, thought provoking, violent and difficult film, I found it to be too dreary, too melodramatic, too obvious and, most importantly, too long.

There are few films that can, successfully, keep me gripped for 2hrs35min. JFK is one and that other Gyllenhaal detective drama Zodiac is another but what they had, that Prisoners forgot, was a complex, gripping detective narrative with possibly many solutions and actual characters. It is in these two areas that Prisoners woefully falls short.

Focussing, for the moment, on the little good in the film, Prisoners is very well shot by seasoned director of photography, Roger Deakins and not badly played by the starry, Oscar grabby cast, not that they're given a whole lot to work with.

That being said, my first problem with the kidnapping plot is that it was obvious. If you, like my wife and I, indulge your silly brain cells every week by watching 45min detective procedurals like The Mentalist, Castle, Elementary, White Collar or whatever, then you will see the ending of the film coming a mile away. This is because, the way it was set up and as it continued to play out, there was only a handful of ways it could play out. Now, I'm sure, for those not so used to the simple twists and turns of evening TV, Prisoners may have been a gripping whodunit but, I am sorry, if you've read any, even mildly, detective orientated books or watched a Murder She Wrote then you'll know the plot, like I did, 45mins in and will have to sit there for another 1hr and 45mins waiting for surly, grumpy, tattooed Jake Gyllenhaal to work it out too. Which he eventually does but even his, supposedly brilliant, 'never lost a case' detective is beaten to the punch by 'very angry indeed' Hugh Jackman.

Gyllenhaal's detective is supposed, I am guessing, to be a tortured, dogged genius but we never see any evidence of him really doing anything insightful or perceptive, he's not a fantastic puzzle solver, good with people particularly and there doesn't appear to be a great intellect pounding away inside his furrow browed, slicked back haired head. It struck me as one of those characters him and the director talked endlessly about but forgot to put any of the motivations into the actual script. We are told in dialogue he is brilliant and we are just meant to take it as read, despite the fact that all he does is mundane and routine investigation. Yes he has tattoos, a grumpy face and spends thanksgiving alone in Chinese restaurants but apart from that, we have no idea what makes him tick, oh and his superiors and the police around him are also woefully inept.

Jackman is a survivalist, all American, possible religious nut who is also an alcoholic with an atrociously bad temper bubbling underneath a, not very interesting, surface. I was never sure if we were meant to side with him so that, we the audience, were complicit in his violent actions later on but seeing as I didn't really like him from the get go and seeing as I suspected that probably Paul Dano's massively red herring probably wasn't the bad guy (just by watching the trailer) that didn't really work for me. I actually found his reaction a little unrealistic and over the top but then I also found Paul Dano's character as annoyingly, idiotically stubborn as Jackman found him. Mind of a 10 year old or not, traumatised or not, I didn't buy for one second he'd stay silent for as long as he does, when he had no problem talking to Gyllenhaal's character for an apparent 10hr interrogation (we're told and see on video).

Maria Bello, Viola Davis & Terrence Howard are all shockingly underused and irrelevant (mostly) and poor Melissa Leo is left playing, what slides very close to being, a comical old grandma part. Complete with bad clothes, huge glasses and a terrible wig.

I am, personally, amazed that this film got made the way it did at all and, secondly, amazed that people love it so much. It's not that it's a bad film. It's fine. It just felt very obvious, mundane, grim and too long.
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An unnecessarily long saga where a lot happens by chance
mickwbrown20114 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Never written a review but Prisoners got my juices flowing – in a bad way.

The film is way too long, a lot of unnecessary shots, no real emotion, no saving the cat moment (Blake Snyder) on Hugh Jackman's part and one of the most significant fatal flaws in my mind – absolutely no humour, not a pinch. It's a gritty film (and I get it), but please give me a break! An experienced writer would be able to lighten up the mood and that is a must from time to time.

Now, the inconsistencies, silly red herrings and just plain stupidity: Why would the child killer go to confess to a priest when his faith dwindled after his son died and they waged war against God? The priest confirmed that the killer was "bragging" – so what is exactly the point of going to the priest? Does not sound like a confession issue to me. Fail

Why didn't they get the priest to do a photofit and connect the dots that way? If you kill a man you sure remember at least something of him? Why didn't the maverick detective think about the old Auntie's husband going missing all those years ago and perhaps make some sort of connection? Nah, it's not good for the plot. Fail

The same maverick detective-solved-all-the-cases finds everything out by chance – by chance he sees the cable sticking out from behind a cupboard which (surprise, surprise!) is hiding a secret entrance to a secret basement and the priest never even thought of getting rid of the body. Then, by chance again, the maverick detective shoves all the stuff on the floor from his desk and voila! – A clue again! Fail

Why did Hugh Jackman's character need to beat the retarded Alex – when the genius detective interviewed him, it seemed the phobia of human touch did the job? Plus, Keller never got anything out of Alex although Alex's capable – when the plot requires – to utter a completely coherent and revealing sentence. Also, everybody would of course believe the retard but not the father trying to find his missing child. Where was surveillance? Oh, my next point – the whole police force consists of the genius detective, his superior with an office, a couple of administrative guys and a forensic team of 2 – get outta here! The genius detective does not only seem to have no training but lacking in common sense as well – why would you not close the first snake box and let the snakes get out whilst you're opening other boxes? This is just idiotic. Fail

Everybody seem to be talking in riddles – the girl that escaped utters "you were there", everybody seem to hear it, see Keller run out like mad, but for the plot purposes, nobody reacts. Instead of questioning the girl (who, we've just witnessed, can actually speak!), they just stand around in a friendly circle. Fail

Keller goes to the auntie's house knowing full well that she's a serial killer and (one in such extreme situation would gather) – very dangerous. He TURNS HIS BACK to her and mutters a threat. For what I know, she could have knocked him out with a frying pan at that point. Fail

The evil Auntie, weirdly, seems to be repeating every command twice – open the drawer x 2, get in the car x 2, everything's repeated twice – are the writers short of words? What's going on? Fail

Oh, and a note to the director – try cutting the scenes down or eliminate the ones with people just walking down the hospital corridors – may add urgency to the pace and people would not doze off whilst watching a 2.5 hour film the story of which does not warrant this length.

The list goes on. Yawn... Enough now, otherwise I may write into the early hours of the morning.
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Not recommended for an inquiring mind.
zzyzx000-124-27155827 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
There's basically 2 types of movies: In the 1st type you create a world that is so fictional and different from ours, that the viewer knows to turn off his challenging and logical mind and just go with it. Superman, Avatar, etc.

The 2nd type is set in the real world. Sure it's fiction and I understand that to make this type of movie interesting you have to compound coincidences that wouldn't likely all happen in real life. This type of movie, however doesn't get a free pass on the impossible, just on unlikely.

So here we have a modern setting in suburban small town New York state where 2 girls go missing. So the entertainment value here is watching how people interact and cope with the situation. Here's a few of the things that's hopelessly unreal: Cops don't go to possible dangerous places alone. Instead they call the SWAT team, or call for backup or at least have a partner.

Alex Jones, the kidnapped suspect can do a 10 hour interview with Detective Loki, but can endure days of torture before he says anything to Keller Dover, the crazy father torturer. Doesn't make sense since he's hot the bad guy.

Franklin and Nancy Birch, totally unbelievable. Franklin is led to the torture chamber and voices his disbelief several times before joining in. Franklin tells his wife who doesn't call the cops, no she goes to the torture chamber, tells the other 2 how bad they are and they co-operates with them.

Bob Taylor, another traumatized grown up child victim, acts normal, holds down a job, but collects clothes from current victims, puts blood on them and stores them in locked boxes full of snakes on his property.

So all we have is a story that is not just improbable, but impossible, scene after scene. Much more believable is Obi Wan Ken-obi getting a free pass by wiggling his fingers and saying, "these aren't the Droids you're looking for." That was entertaining. What's entertaining about an impossible fantasy of something so real and horrible as child abduction?
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Winner: Worst Police Work on Film
cacikra23 January 2014
Spoilers ahead. Not that it matters.

Oh my, what a waste of top talent and resources. This could have been a taut, effective, thoughtful little thriller, but the ridiculous plot holes and logical inconsistencies doom it (along with its unnecessary length). The Hugh Jackman character is such a glaring box-checking conceit that it diminishes any complexity I'm pretty sure we're MEANT to appreciate about him. Religious? Check. Hard-working common man? Check. Struggling in these dire economic times? Check. Adorable, loving family? Check. Tragic family event in past that molded his character? Check. Ironic plot development? Check. (The doomsday prepper gets burned; but wait, that whistle did come in handy, as we knew it would.) OK, let's stop there. I'm not saying the plight of the parents was not moving. Who is not moved by children in jeopardy, parents in misery? It's difficult to not see plots like this in terms of the basest exploitation. But it takes a sure and subtle hand to make it work, and that was obviously missing here. Many have compared it to Mystic River, which is apt, though that was a far finer film, and more believable as a police procedural. I imagine the screenwriter and director wanted us to take a hard look at what might happen when a good man goes bad for all the right reasons, but the lengths he goes to in torturing the Paul Dano character just don't make sense. Yes, maybe that's the point: Keller is beyond "sense." OK, but when the two other parents acquiesce to the torture (albeit somewhat reluctantly, but still), I wanted to throw something at the screen.

While I'm still on "character," Jake Gyllenhaal's detective is an absolute cipher. Maybe this was a decision NOT to give him a backstory of any kind because that would be lame. Fine. But in place of that we get a bad haircut, shirt-buttoned-all-the-way-but-no-tie look, some twitchy blinking, and not much else. I was rooting for him mostly because he wasn't actively torturing anyone.

Other complaints:

*One detective seems to be assigned to this very explosive case. Other than combing the fields for bodies, no one else seems involved in the "investigation." OK, this was probably a decision so the focus would be on Loki (his name,really?) and not on some partner chitchat, and at a 2 hr., 33 min. runtime, I should shut up about it, but it so goes against any police reality, that I couldn't forgive it.

*Gyllenhaal makes a decision pretty early that the Paul Dano character is innocent, and so he is released - without surveillance and without police protection, even though Jackman's character has already attacked him. Yes, I know, some perfunctory BS scene with Gyllenhaal's superior was included to explain why there was no surveillance, but that also was stupid. He was their only real suspect. And a search of his aunt's property didn't reveal . . . drugs, syringes, handguns, sedated girls? Nobody looked into the history of this little "farmily"? The aunt is taken at her word about everything. Oh wait . . . she had to be, or Hugh Jackman could not have kidnapped Paul Dano and we wouldn't have a movie.

*The priest has a dead body in the basement. Obviously, he takes his vow about confessions more seriously than the commandment about murder. Oh, and that dead body turns out to be . . . Well, you know if you saw it.

*The abandoned apartment where Dano is held is never searched (convenient new suspect emerges at critical juncture, too busy to send someone else over there to do a thorough search).

*Red herring to end all red herrings: deranged young man with mazes, snakes, pig blood, buried mannequins, stolen children's clothing.

*Just in general: too much crazy in too limited a geographical space (see Priest, Snake Boy, Crazy Aunt).

*One child escapes . . . while heavily sedated? Crazy aunt nonetheless stays put, does not kill remaining child immediately. Why she was keeping them alive in the first place is not convincingly explained.

*ONE person deciding that a dead child means warring with God and creating "demons" by abducting and killing other people's children is a just response to personal tragedy is far-fetched (not impossible, certainly), but TWO! Good times. Of course, the Man suffers a crisis of conscience apparently and confesses to the wrong priest. The Woman (female of the species and all that) has to keep muddling along, killing when she gets a chance. Times are tough (the recession applies to child abduction too).

*The maze symbol is both too obvious (morally) and too opaque. Dead guy in basement wearing one, crazy crime re-enactor draws them, imprisoned Dano whispers it? Connection unclear.

I wish I had that whistle at the end, so someone would have come and saved me from this movie.
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plot holes that could swallow Nevada
A_Different_Drummer19 October 2013
Some ground rules. Legend has it that the first-time scriptwriter for this oddity was paid a million dollars, and then the project was shelved because they could not figure out what to do with it. Then they had a brainstorm. Just make it. And here we are with an almost-Hitchcockian pseudo-thriller that occasional resembles a police story and even sometimes a horror film. The story gives new life to the cliché, "plot holes you could drive a truck through." Hugh Jackman gives the performance of his life, but his character is so lacking in empathy that this might not be enough. Jake Gyllenhaal plays himself which ironically is more than enough to carry the role. Maria Bello is lost. Dennis Villeneuve is a great director who can make even the rain interesting and one would like to see him try his hand at something better written. Like the phone book.
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Misrepresented as watchable
jonnywood-874-8206218 December 2013
To anyone who misrepresented this movie as being worth more than 3 stars simply because it had a decent cast... I'll make the wild assertion that you don't know what a decent "crime-drama-thriller" is. It wasn't thrilling. It wasn't drama. It was just a crime. You could have bigger thrills holding your breath until you pass out from lack of intelligence. It was like Three terrible episodes of Law-and-Order without the good parts, topped off with a weak ending. I hope Hugh Jackman hates this movie. {PAD} {PAD} {PAD} (Attempts to pad the comment with junk words can result in your account being blocked from future submissions.) This movie wasn't worth 10 lines of text.
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Worst movie I've seen this year.
sneezypanda2326 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I really didn't like this movie. Not because of the gore, not because of the language, but because of the pacing, the acting and most definitely the ending. The movie went on for two hours and they left it hanging at a really stupid time - if you're going to purposely leave the ending hanging, leave it at a time point where it's a bit ambiguous and up to the viewer how it ends. But they left it hanging at a point where it's pretty obvious what's going to happen next, but denying the viewers the chance to see the story wrap up (why????)

The pacing was terrible. You hardly got a chance to feel and know the characters before things were happening. You felt no sympathy for the girls, who you saw for maybe a few minutes before they got abducted. You didn't share the mum's grief because her acting was so obviously forced. The guy who gets tortured and beaten was (surprise surprise) completely innocent, which was obvious right from the start. The dad is only ever shown stony-faced or blowing his tits in a rage, except for towards the end when his guilt over bashing up a guy who's clearly innocent makes him get stressed and say a few lines of prayer, and then torture the kid some more. And at the end when he finds out the culprit is the kid's aunt, he doesn't even show a single bit of remorse over the horrible thing he's done.

Also, the aunt: really? Urgh, so obvious. So tired of the same old formula in every thriller movie: killer turns out to be the one you least expect, someone you were introduced to at the start of the movie, and the crazy story behind them being the unlikeliest killer in the world is revealed only at the end. Halfway through the movie I used that formula to deduce the only person who fit it was the aunt, and prayed to God that this movie wouldn't follow the same boring cliché. But it did, even though they ended up adding a possible suspect later whose storyline they didn't bother to explain and whose purpose was simply to try and lead us off the right trail when they brought out the 'it's the aunt' card right at the end. What was with that guy? Why was he obsessed with pouring pig's blood on kids' clothes? Nobody cares, apparently.

Movie makers - if you're going to make the main character some sort of antihero who's morally ambiguous, who does awful things out of desperation, who thinks they're doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, actually put in some effort making us CONNECT with this character. Show us his human side, show him feeling guilt and remorse, show him with his head in his hands saying 'what have I done?', show him feeling worried as hell about his daughter, show him co-operating with the police because he realises that's his best chance of getting his daughter back. Give us a better reason for him taking the law into his own hands than just him thinking he's better than the police at judging who's a criminal and who's not. Show him TRYING to act like a decent human being before succumbing to his emotions and going ballistic. Show him doubting whether what he's doing is really right at all. Show that good side as well as the bad. REALLY show it, because the few moments he showed a sliver of distress, he seemed more angry/upset that the kid wasn't talking than that he may be doing something awful. Because this whole movie I was almost hoping his daughter would die just to serve him right. I felt more hatred towards the father who was alternating between praying to God and torturing a mentally disabled kid than the woman who abducted his child. Epic fail.
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Astonishingly awful
MovieMan6625 September 2014
I figured out the most of the plot after the first 45 minutes of this painfully slow moving painfully wannabe suspense movie. 'Prisoners' is self-indulgent mind-numbing fare. It parodies the film noire genre without intending it.

The audience is treated as a fool, and the director apparently gets away with it--if the praise showered on this con-job of a movie on IMDb is a reliable indicator. Hugh Jackman out of the Wolverine character is what the audience wanted to see in this film, and he tries hard but he totally wasted in this 2-1/2 overstretched and subdued melodrama.

Watching Andy Warhol's slow motion movies at a further half speed would be more entertaining.
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Utterly repugnant propaganda filled vehicle.
imbluzclooby29 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Let's make a crime caper where we have an excuse to show a mentally disabled man get tortured beyond reason. Even if he might be the suspect we are subjected to the overzealous rage filled attacks carried out by the kidnapped child's father. Let's also throw in some religious rhetoric to situate villainy in Christians , elderly widows, depraved sickos and handicapped people.

Why were all of these vile charges crammed in just one movie? It leaves me to respond with affirmation that this movie intended to anger, upset and disgust any unsuspecting movie goer. But along with making a crime caper that involves a kidnapping, we are also given a slow moving plot filled with misleading clues, uneven continuity, numerous twists and red-herrings that don't make much sense. Many questions will be asked as you labor through this torturous drama and it only gets more aggravating and confusing. Why would a police department be so incompetent as to have the parents be committing vigilantism without any surveillance? This is highly unlikely in America, even in rural Midwestern towns. Did the writers bother to consult Law authorities on investigative and forensic procedures? Because they seem non-existent in this unbelievable tale.

The most unforgiving and unsympathetic performance is Hugh Jackman's character who completely absconds any sense of responsibility and regard for law, humanity and common sense. As we see him emerging into madness and sadistic rage we quickly lose any empathy for him. How is it that any person can enjoy or be fascinated with the brutal torture of a feeble and mentally incapable simpleton? It's just an exercise in ugliness and perpetuates into the extreme. It was overdone. It would have been more believable if the torture was attempted and later foregone, realizing the method of debriefing wasn't working. Jackman's acting is way over the top and fails to draw any sympathy. Perhaps it was bad acting or a faulty script. It's as if the director was pushing him in a weekly actor's workshop to go the limit with unconstrained rage. It doesn't work.

I also was annoyed at Gyllenhall's sleepy performance. For a detective who is supposed to have a stellar record, he sure missed much of the insanity going on with the people involved. This movie is also anti-authority and rebellious in its stance. Showing cops get maligned and disrespected is commonplace as the parents just freely go about their neurotic business of vigilantism.

Many times I asked myself, 'Why is this happening? What did that mean? How is this guy involved? How did this old lady ever orchestrate such a kidnapping spree without getting caught? She seems a wee bit too old and frail to be carrying out such a demonic feat with grown men. Why did the other suspect break into the house while the mother was there? What exactly was he after? Why would he show up at a Candlelight vigil and make a spectacle of himself? Lame and stupid plot making. Why wasn't the priest ever a suspect before the kidnapping? You would think the police would be led to clues as to the dead man's whereabouts. Why would the old lady wait for Dover's second visit to constrain him? Was she so certain her demonic plan could rebound after losing one hostage?

Most reprehensible is this movie's conviction of wallowing in its own depravity. It fails to make a distinction between what we can assert as truthful and moral behavior and what is incomprehensible behavior. This cheesy tag-line, "How far would you go?" only ushers in a weak excuse for someone to go ballistic on anyone they suspect. Even if the person in question has the wrong look in his eye. The question is so bad that it doesn't even deserve to be dignified with an intelligent answer. The question that should be asked is "How much effort does a caring father need to put forth in order to assure the safety of his family, himself and his daughter?" By committing abduction and torture he puts himself in jeopardy and his family.

I could go on with more questions, but Prisoners doesn't have any redeeming qualities. A plethora of weird clues such as snakes stuffed in crates, the numerous scenes featuring a maze, weird wall paper, bloody clothes add up to nothing in this labyrinth of trash. It's all shock material that is poorly crafted and handled. And it isn't even believable.
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Idiotic and boring!
batiol3 January 2014
The first 15minutes are rather good and gripping, then the plot becomes weaker and stupider by the minute, it made me think they made up the story as they went along filming.

You've got one implausible fact and character after another, for one the detective works alone, fails repeatedly to call for backup. The many violent scenes seem purely voyeuristic and don't bring much to the table.

Jake Gyllenhaal's acting abilities are terrible (and not only in this movie), he's got two facial expression either the doleful look or a kind of smirk.

I watched this movie after reading the NY Times review, please someone fire the journalist who wrote it!
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A piece of garbage
buzzbruin-650-40918322 September 2013
I sometimes wonder if I live on the same planet as critics on IMDb. This is easily the very worst movie of the year and one of the ten worst of all time. Poorly written way way way way too long and so filled with lies clichés and stupidity it boggles the mind. I admit as a lawyer I am biased against these kind of movies where suspects are tortured beaten senseless and arrested with zero probable cause. That Jackman would make this movie after his magnificent performance in Lez Miz could only have been for the money. His role is a one-dimensional idiot without intelligence who gets it wrong from the beginning. Jake G has the worst role as stupid numbskull cop who hasn't a clue as to what is going on. I didn't give a fig about the parents, or their kids. There was zero background on what kin of parents and kids they were. This was not even a bad TV movie, it was a waste of time. Its length is inexcusable, its plot beyond idiotic and its actors were like very bad run of the mill nobodies. They all should be ashamed of themselves--the writer, director actors and everyone else. Don't see this film. Boycott it, and if not tell your friends to forget it, God it was awful!!
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Was I watching a different film to most other people?
revkeith3925 September 2013
Really surprised that this has garnered so much praise. Many comments talk of great acting performances but as I frequently point out to friends, shouting with intensity is not great acting! I can't believe Hugh Jackman agreed to take such a risible role. You always know you're in trouble when there's SYMBOLISM! The policeman is Loki, Norse God, everyone is 'religious' though nothing stops their sadism,etc. Subtext link to US forces in Iraq - being bad to bad guys just perpetuates the violence. The 2 mothers are ciphers, with no characters, letting the Men do the work! Come on this is 2013! Great cop who's solved every case- yeh, right!- who misses every clue. And at 2 & a half the end, I didn't care.
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