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339 out of 542 people found the following review useful:

Dreadful Dreck

1/10
Author: blackmarketkaty from United States
28 November 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Did I watch the same film that the other reviewers here watched? Because I found nothing but obvious Oscar bait. It was as if someone wrote a list of every possible tear-jerking story cliché and checked off as many as they could fit within time and budget constraints. Horses? Check! War? Check! Plucky youngsters? Check and check! Plucky youngsters fighting to save the farm! Plucky youngsters fighting to keep the horse! Plucky youngsters who were previously enemies now getting along! Plucky youngsters severely wounded but staying plucky! I could go on. Really, I could. But all that's necessary to say is that almost everything you expect to happen does.

The cast is full of fantastic actors whose talent is disappointingly wasted in this film. I can't blame them, considering the schmaltzy script they had to work with ("It's a miracle horse!" - somebody actually says that. Actually, I think every character says that?). Emily Watson's brow furrows expertly. David Thewlis sneers as required. Peter Mullan stares remorsefully with perfection. Benedict Cumberbatch's mustache should win its own Oscar, and if an Oscar could be won simply for tearful lip quivering, Jeremy Irvine would win it for sure. I only wish I could have taken any of it seriously. Actually, I found myself caring more about the father's pennant than the horse.

Never have I seen such a display of dull writing, ham-fisted scripting, utterly scattered direction and overkill cinematography. It's no surprise they've evaded professional critics in screenings. I don't know who they've targeted everywhere else, but the audience at mine was largely seniors and veterans who all applauded it wildly. The younger audience members I saw did not seem to be so impressed. Some in my row were actually laughing quietly at all the wrong places. To be fair, perhaps this movie is really intended for a very specific demographic of which I'm not yet a member. Or perhaps, more likely, it was deliberately manipulative.

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237 out of 387 people found the following review useful:

I'm genuinely sorry I can't recommend or like this one

2/10
Author: LilyDaleLady from Anywheresville, USA
26 December 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For the record, I'm a sappy horse lover, & I desperately wanted to like, nay love, this film but I have to give it two stars.

Based on a children's novel by Michael Morpurgo, I never heard of "War Horse" until the Broadway production. Magnificent life-size horse puppets were so eerily realistic and moving that THEY actually moved me to tears. This was before I had an inkling that Spielberg had optioned the story and was making a film of it.

Spielberg has pulled out every stop here -- the movie is shot on real film and looks it, lush and expensive. The battle scenes are detailed and exciting. There is a skillful cast of respected British actors. But it's entirely without real heart and soul.

Without the exciting puppetry (that undoubtedly drew Spielberg to the material as it did me), the only way to save this would have been some kind of thoughtful retelling of the material. And once you get past the swelling music, the golden sunsets and manipulated emotional level, frankly this feels empty. "The Black Stallion" -- from 1979 -- is a much more fantastical story, without historical precedent or realism, and yet I never watch it without sobbing like a baby, because it touches something deep and human and universal. "War Horse" simply does not. It feels like a calculated bid for an Oscar nomination.

Being released along with "TinTin" at the same Christmas slot, my impression was that the first big mistake Spielberg made was to go realistic with the story. The play worked because it is NOT realistic. Frankly, I think he should have used animation for the horse story -- made it more symbolic and expressionistic -- and filmed TinTin straight up as an "Indiana Jones"- type adventure.

I was also struck, from almost the start of the film, that Spielberg honestly knows (and cares) NOTHING about horses and that lack of genuine interest plagues the film. The first part of the film, set in an English village, has the Narracott family -- apparently the dumbest and most incompetent tenant farmers in British history -- who irrationally decide to buy a thoroughbred for plowing. Strangely, they seem not to have owned ANY horse prior to this. How did they plow the farm BEFORE Joey? Mr. Narracott spends 30 quid on Joey (I believe this would be about $150 US, as it was valued in 1914) -- that amount of money would have easily bought Joey AND some old plowhorse.

And why is Mr. Narracott about 60-65 years old, with a 14 year old son? People married young back then -- Albert is more the age of his grandchild. How on earth did the father think he'd run a good-sized farm, when he's handicapped? and has no plow horse? (Note: nobody apparently had ever heard of mules back then -- much cheaper than a thoroughbred!) Since he spends his life savings on Joey, Mr. Narracott now has NO RENT MONEY....why did he do this? He doesn't even like or WANT the horse! He has no use for such a horse! He's put his entire family in danger of going hungry and/or being evicted for a horse he dislikes. Then he gambles what's left of his future that this slightly built yearling can plow up a huge, rocky field.

Of course the horse does so, with considerable anguish and suffering -- in one day, because nobody remotely considered doing it a bit at a time. The Narracotts are so mentally challenged as a FAMILY, none of them consider FIRST going through the field and REMOVING the giant ROCKS, but prefer to make it as hard as possible for the horse. When they amazingly DO NOT KILL the horse with this abusive behavior, it then rains, washing away the entire crop (of turnips, no less). While all this happens, the village folk -- who have no work or farms of their own to run -- stand around IN THE RAIN watching! Literally, they have no more sense than to stand in the rain in their good clothes. Naturally, NOT ONE OF THEM -- all presumably village tenant farmers -- has a spare horse or mule, or even the decency to pitch in and help a CRIPPLED MAN and his 14 year old boy. Nice town. Glad I don't live there. Note: by 1914, if they had CARS, they had TRACTORS.

After this segment, there was nothing about the war scenes or Joey's unlikely survival against all odds, that moved me or made me feel anything for the characters. Jeremy Irvine, as Albert (the boy) is especially weak, and he doesn't look 14 (he also looks identical at 18, whereas we all know that boys change VERY rapidly in physique in those 4 years).

At the end, when Joey and Albert return from war....well, they apparently take a wrong turn and end up in WYOMING. Because suddenly there are western-like expanses of land, and big golden sunsets and vistas that go on forever. Frankly, it's not Devonshire, England.

Among the many subplots -- where Joey is handed along by one unbelievably kind and decent person to another, literally the nicest warring folks in history -- one set in a French farmhouse, with the world's most annoying kid with the world's lamest fake French accent, is a real low point. Later, we hear the little girl has died -- old movie disease, since she looks healthy as, well, a horse -- we just feel relief we don't have to hear her fake French accent again (I was afraid she'd resurface somewhat older, as a romantic partner for Albert).

Sorry, I can't buy one frame of this film. A big disappointment. If you do get a chance to view some of the puppetry from the theatrical play, don't miss it -- THAT is magnificent. But the film, just third rate.

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220 out of 378 people found the following review useful:

A Stunning and Enthralling Epic

10/10
Author: Grey Gardens from United States
25 December 2011

Steven Spielberg has assembled many fantastic movies, like Schindler's List, Jaws, E.T, Saving Private Ryan, etc. His new creation, War Horse is a stunning achievement. The film was professionally made, it looked amazing, sounded great. Legendary composer, John Williams crafted an amazing and beautiful score. It was one of the best, I've heard in years.

Jeremy Irvine delivers a very heartfelt and convincing performance, he's just great. The rest of the cast, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, etc were all great, as well. However the star of the film, The Horse was simply amazing, the facial expressions were all spot on. Its just great, how you see the movie, from a horse perspective. Steven Spielberg deserves a lot of praise for that, and I hoper he gets it.

The cinematography is as good as it gets, its simply astounding. The film's cinematographer, Janusz Kamiński deserves all the praise he gets, an Oscar surely awaits him. The movie deserves all the technical praise, it gets. The editing is well done, the art direction is spectacular, the look of the film is quite breathtaking, at times.

The film is uncompromisingly sentimental, and I wasn't annoyed by it. Because it worked so well, it made me care about the story, the characters, the horses. A good old fashion studio epic, I miss them and I'm happy Spielberg delivered one. There are a lot of powerful scenes in the movie, from which I cried. It was just so moving, it showed the true consequences of war. Some of the battle sequences were simply fantastic and astonishing.

I am happy to see, Steven Spielberg in his top form. He showed, that he's still one of the best in the business and I hope to see more of him in the future. It may not be his best film, but it certainly a wonderful film to watch. I'd recommend anyone to see the film, it will appeal to everyone.

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135 out of 229 people found the following review useful:

"Lassie" meets "Saving Private Ryan"

1/10
Author: from United States
29 December 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Lassie" meets "Saving Private Ryan". This movie is Sappy and Predictable, a complete disappointment. It has good visuals and big dramatic music and that's about it. The Critics of Hollywood must owe these guys Money or something, for giving it such good reviews. The Human lead is a sniffling twerp whose background is not developed. The Father is an angry Irish Drunk who's actually a tortured Hero Character, whose story is not developed. The Mother is a Loving all Forgiving Character. The other people are one stereotypical, poorly developed character after another. You can see everything coming.It's Two Whole Hours of my Life I'll never get back. The Story and Characters are too simple and superficial to keep an adults interest but, the War Violence and Exaggerated Animal Cruelty is a Bit much for Kids.

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110 out of 182 people found the following review useful:

With War Horse the usual bloodbath and gory murder scenes are ditched in favour of a genuine story that manages to provoke passion and deep emotion in the audience

8/10
Author: The Upcoming from United Kingdom
21 December 2011

When it was announced that Steven Spielberg was directing a film adaptation of War Horse, fans across the UK were a little apprehensive.

After all, the stage play and book were massive hits, so the film would have a lot to live up to. Early reviews are now saying that this film will be in the running for major Academy Awards — a statement that seems accurate after watching the film.

Based on the book by Michael Morpurgo, War Horsedepicts the story of Albert Narracott, played by Jeremy Irvine, and his treasured horse Joey in Britain where World War I is about to begin. Joey is sold to the cavalry by Albert's alcoholic father and finds himself trapped in the devastating fields of war while Albert is trying to find him.

Spielberg finds a balance between heartfelt emotion, especially from seeing the war through Joey's eyes and the people he meets along the way, and the tragic problems the main characters face, for example the separation between Joey and Albert after we have watched them bond and connect in the first part of the film. It is those emotional contrasts that Spielberg translates onto the screen well, perhaps the best one being the contrast between the overall setting of the devastation and trauma of World War I and the love between the main character and his horse portrayed throughout the film.

Although some of the cast are newcomers to cinema, they put on a stellar performance. Jeremy Irvine perfectly portrays on screen the character's determination and devotion to find his horse. Practically unknown before this film, his performance in War Horse has now made him one to watch. The rest of the cast include Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, Tom Hiddleston, and Niels Arestrup.

War Horse is the perfect film to settle down with the family for Christmas. It is a touching, beautiful depiction of the relationship between a boy and his horse, and of life in the countryside during World War I. The usual bloodbath and gory murder scenes are ditched in favour of a genuine story that manages to provoke passion and deep emotion in the audience, and overall this fits into the beauty of the narrative.

Check more reviews from The Upcoming on http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/?cat=9

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56 out of 88 people found the following review useful:

Simply Delightful !

9/10
Author: zenjunkie from United Kingdom
19 January 2012

I went to see this movie expecting NOT to like it. But, for 2 hours and 15 mins I was totally enthralled. I don't understand the reviews that have disliked this wonderful movie. If you want a cinematic experience this will tick the boxes. This is simply a great story - well told. Its also visually stunning. There's no stupid CGI. There's no gratuitous violence - the violent moments are tastefully choreographed and at times heartbreakingly realistic - without going for sensationalism. I'll not tell you the story or give any spoilers. Except to say this. Girls - bring hankies! Guys - don't be put off by the hankies - there's plenty of good action and the story is brilliant anyway. If you want a normal brainless CGI blockbuster - look elsewhere. If you want a class GREAT MOVIE GO AND SEE WARHORSE - you will not regret it.

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65 out of 106 people found the following review useful:

Unbelievable. Literally.

1/10
Author: Stefan Boublil from new york city
11 January 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

before i get going, and so that you may not be lead to believe that i am on an anti-Spielberg crusade, let me clear something up first:

i'm the guy who loved Hook!

okay? are we straight now? alright, let's go then...

at one point, every director must ask him or herself the seminal question: who cares? and, invariably, the answer must at least be: i do! that is a process seemingly absent from Mr. Spielberg's oeuvre as a director of late, not even to mention his work as a producer (terra nova anyone?) the trouble is that, for my money and ever since The Lost World: Jurassic Park, each and every one of the ordinary people he loves so much has been underdeveloped prototypes that count on our now-standardized assumptions to appear challenged by the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in. it is incompetent at best and lazy at anticipated. worst, though, goes to careless, the state he now seems to have devolved to, spoiling a career built on thoughtful consideration of his self, now outsourced to our expectations of what a "Spielberg movie" is supposed to be.

from The Sugarland Express to e.t. by way of Close Encounters, it was always evident to me that he took his supposed fun quite seriously. fully-fleshed characters were all there, painstakingly and brilliantly introduced for lasting flavor; their motivations were human and real so that we may allow ourselves to cheer them on without shame or reservation and their meaningfulness was made obvious by the audiences' tears which, in the words of Pauline Kael, were "tokens of gratitude for the spell the picture had put on (them.)"

warhorse, for me, missed every single one of those opportunities...

first of all, let me say this for the record: fade ins and outs are for people who don't know how to finish a scene. and for a director of this stature, in the first minutes of a grand epic, to use them not even to mark the passage of time, but to actually transition from daily moment to daily moment, while still in the expository section as we discover who we are dealing with, is of the weakest lack of confidence this side of The Terminal. in fact, the whole first act of this here slice of a lifetime movie could easily, but for the sweeping harmonies of Mr. John Williams' violins, pass for the director's cut of an over-ambitious Irish spring commercial. let us enumerate the people we meet in the first 15 minutes of this farce:

- the handsome young teen who falls in love with a horse. - the drunk father with a mysterious, but brave, past. - the dutiful wife whose quiet dignity passes for depth. - the mutton-chopped evil landlord threatening to evict.

to call these characters cliché would do them honor. they are but prototypical cardboard cutouts whom able screenwriter Richard Curtis must have been forced to write to defuse a time bomb strapped to his pet turtle, for he was apparently convinced to assume that the audience would be so familiar with these templates that we would happily fill the gaping void left by their lack of motivation or character with what we could remember from Babe. after seeing such carelessness in this and Tintin in the same week, is it possible to conclude that the beard has lost his eye for casting, his ear for dialog and instinct for story?

as we journey from English to french to German owners of what we are told is "a fabulous beast," we are, once again, confronted by an American director who does not dare subtitle his foreigners, which is really sad. especially in this movie, in which each dialect lasts for less than 30 minutes, it would have added a sorely needed touch of realism to an otherwise already over-sweetened tale. may it be too forward to say that if you missed the too-subtle "grand-pere" or "schnell!" you might think all these people are English? not only that but from hot teen English boy to fragile little french girl to portly and sweet German underling, everyone who loves the horse is a raging stereotype of cute and cuddliness. it is also quasi-insulting that a bottle of medicine is all Spielberg seems to need these days to make us care for a little girl whose skeleton, we are told none too subtly, might collapse any second now. here, we are treated to a simple binary system: people who shoot horses: bad. people who love horses: good.

but, you'll say, you're missing the point, this is not about them at all, this is about the horse! ah yes, the horse. does anyone care about horses this much that they are willing to take on faith that this one was so extraordinary as to inspire so many sacrifices from all who met it?! all this horse does is run, for 2 hours save for some human fighting in the 3rd act. which i wouldn't have had a problem with but for the fact that he runs for no reason! he is not trying to save anyone, bring a satchel full of secrets from one side to another or even find his original owner, all of which might have been good enough reasons to cheer him on. here, he runs for nothing!

and let's talk about the only non-horse sequence of the film. it seems to only be there to break up the sentimentality with a "see-what-i-can-do-with-war?" moment from a director who has long-lost his conviction. are we supposed to believe that in the blue glow of early morning in a war during which 100s of 1000s of people were lost, soldiers regain their basic humanity thanks to one animal caught in barbed wire?!

i'm upset because this is not adult filmmaking. this is simply doing something because one can.

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57 out of 91 people found the following review useful:

Brown Beauty

8/10
Author: Dharmendra Singh from Birmingham, England
23 January 2012

Spielberg's film is his vision of Michael Morpurgo's beloved book, which must surely now be essential reading for all kids, if it wasn't before.

Superficially it's about a horse named Joey and a boy called Albert, who become inseparable through a series of unfortunate events – World War I being one of them. A closer look reveals a story of such overwhelming humanity that I was bowled over. Spielberg was the only director for this film because he knows what it means to be a child.

Whether or not it is apparent in the book, there's no doubt this is a war film, one that ranks with Spielberg's 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Schindler's List'. Emily Watson's character utters a line about the refusal of being proud of killing, which is the line one might use to summarise the film's point. Because Spielberg is Jewish, this line is pregnant with meaning. It's his noble way of saying that, despite the suffering received by his kin, he is willing to forgive their oppressors.

There's a scene where Joey is trapped by barbed-wire in no man's land and is freed by the combined effort of an Englishman and a German, who put aside their differences under the name of human decency. The scene is breathtaking, and it's the sort which no-one does better than Spielberg.

Long-time collaborator John Williams provides a moving score, regardless of its resemblance to the one he composed for 'Saving Private Ryan'. Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski reminds us of the beauty of our rural regions by photographing the Devonshire countryside with reverence.

Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Niels Arestrup and Tom Hiddleston form the principal cast and are wonderful. Nothing could have prepared me for how much I'd be moved. There's no reason why you won't be.

moseleyb13.com

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65 out of 107 people found the following review useful:

Underwhelming

4/10
Author: www.ramascreen.com from United States
21 December 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Beautifully shot, yes! Wonderful story, absolutely! Plus it's a war movie that you can take your family to, but,.. WAR HORSE is underwhelming, it gets lost in trying too hard to be a tearjerker so much so that I hardly feel its emotional power. You can definitely label WAR HORSE as the feel-good movie of the year, but it's nothing short of formulaic I'm a die hard fan of John Williams, what a brilliant composer! And his music for this film is probably the biggest reason why I was looking forward to WAR HORSE and it doesn't disappoint. His new music is as memorable as his previous scores in the past. The film however just doesn't work for me, even with the gorgeous cinematography by Janusz Kaminski. The fact that it's made by Spielberg, certainly would still attract audiences, but just don't expect it to be like Saving Private Ryan or Empire Of The Sun, because WAR HORSE is not on that same level. I do admire whatever method the production applied to train the horse for this film, and I'm sure they used more than just one horse for the character Joey. There are certain scenes that might make animal lovers everywhere cringe because of what those scenes required the horse to seemingly do. In the story, the horse Joey encounters several human characters, besides Albert, through its unexpected journey and sadly the film doesn't allow us enough chance to get to deeply know those human characters There is a point where Joey is so crushed by excruciating grief that he starts to run like the wind and it even doesn't care which way it's going, it doesn't care about living and dying either, and that tells you the film's intention all along, to make Joey have some kind of human-like personality, this happens when you deal with movies that have animals as their lead stars, which goes back to formulaic. So that aspect would resonate with audiences who love films like Babe. I just feel the film doesn't challenge itself and it leaves me with an indifferent afterthought. WAR HORSE has its funny and heartfelt moments, the themes are empowering and liberating, they exude strength and loyalty, there is no denying, in addition to a very hopeful ending but it plays it safe and it's not one of my favorite Spielberg films.

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172 out of 324 people found the following review useful:

A Fantastic War Movie that Will Appeal to All Audiences

9/10
Author: Al_Scarface_Capone from United States
5 November 2011

I was lucky enough to see War Horse in a special pre-screening last week, and I can safely say I will be seeing it again when its released on Christmas day. I went in with relatively low expectations, after watching the series of mediocre trailers, and walked out being able to safely say that War Horse is one of the best movies of the year, one of Steven Spielberg's best films, and, quite possibly, one of the best war films ever made, up there with my personal favorites The Thin Red Line, Apocalypse Now and Paths of Glory.

Steven Spielberg had long said that he didn't want to make Saving Private Ryan again. He said he wanted War Horse to be a war movie that parents cant take their children to and teach them something about love and war, and in this respect I can say that he more than succeeded. Spielberg comes close to the clinical perfection of Private Ryan, but more importantly, from an emotional perspective, War Horse far exceeds Private Ryan. There are many people apt to cry at Private Ryan, but War Horse is more likely to cause tears at a similar level to, say, Schindler's List. More importantly, unlike either Schindler or Private Ryan, War Horse is unlikely to cause any sort of political or moral complaints. He never tempers the anti-war message with nationalist tripe. Rather, he plays war straight. War is evil, men are good. There are no sides in this movie. In fact, at various points throughout the film, he seems to directly reject Saving Private 's heroism is dying for country message.

War Horse is based on the children's book and play of the same name. It is about a boy who's father, on a whim, buys a horse for his son that he knows will never be what is needed for the farm work it is purchased for. The boy forms an incredible bond with the horse. The first forty five minutes of the film is spent establishing the relationship between boy and horse. This part of the film is rather slow, but is necessary to establishing the film's central relationships, and is quickly made up for by the shift in pace as soon as the war begins. From the Scottish country side, after this important turning point in world history, War Horse shifts to France, where the titular horse is serving after being sold to the army. The boy is a year or two too young to follow his horse to Europe at this point, so for the next section, the film follows the horse only. From here on out, I will leave the plot a mystery, but it is gripping, thrilling, and very emotional.

There are two scenes in War Horse that I think are worthy of further mention. The first is a charge across no man's land. For anyone not familiar with the bulk of World War I's combat, it consisted of months at a time of back and forth shooting between trenches, broken up by awful charges across no man's land, to take a few hundred yards of enemy territory. These charges, as short as they were, as a result of the machine gun, came with death tolls in the thousands or higher. War Horse contains one of these charges, and it is carried out with both taste, and near perfect artistry. It is just grisly enough to get the reality across, but not so grisly that it makes the movie impossible to show to younger audiences. In fact, this trench charge ranks up with Steven Spielberg's other famous World War battle scene, the beach landing in Saving Private Ryan. It doesn't quite make it, but it comes close.

The other scene worthy of mention also occurs in the trenches, and reflects the other side of War Horse. The titular horse gets caught in the barbed wire in No Man's Land. The soldiers on either side spot it. No one knows what to do, as it is clear that its in incredible pain, but they know that leaving their respective trench would expose them to machine gun fire. Eventually two soldiers, one British, the other German both move to free the horse. The soldiers on both sides know what is going on, so no one fires a shot. This scene is unbelievably touching. The discussion they have (the German soldier happens to speak good English, explained adequately through a joke) will move even the most cynical of viewers, and gives a good idea of just what perspective War Horse takes to the act of war.

There are a few small problems in War Horse that, in most films, I would take issue with, but I will forgive in this case as I feel that they are so necessary for this film to appeal to younger audiences. The German soldiers speak English to one another, a big pet peeve for me. I would have preferred for French characters to speak subtitled French and German characters to speak subtitled Germans, but I recognize that many younger viewers refuse to read subtitles. There are a few unnecessary jokes, but again, younger viewers will enjoy these. Spielberg, as always, has three different endings tacked onto the movie, in this case necessary to provide the cut and dry resolution younger viewers require. As I said, these are still problems, but they are, for better or worse, required to accomplish what Spielberg was trying to.

I can say with absolute certainty that when Christmas rolls around, I will be dragging all my younger relatives to a screening of War Horse. I have never seen a movie so able to pull its punches enough to get a PG- 13 rating, but show enough to explain just what it is about war that makes it such an odious, disgusting, awful affair. In short, see War Horse as soon as you possibly can.

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