A Pure Formality (1994) - A Pure Formality (1994) - User Reviews - IMDb
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One Pure Cinema ....
ramsri818 January 2008
One word that can sum up this movie is Fantastic!!! The thing about this movie is I wasn't lucky like a few other people over here to watch this movie without expecting anything. I almost knew everything I needed to know about this movie even before I bought the DVD. The movie was a pure cinema in every sense of the word. I expect the movie to contain a decent story, good actors, a little bit of suspense, a little comedy (not mandatory) and a classic ending. This one provided me with all of these things and more. The movie is really a manifestation of some one's mind. The acting is uniformly brilliant. I know Polanski is a decent actor and I loved him in The Tenant, but here he is just pure Master Class.Gérard Depardieu is a legend in France and in International Cinema and he shows in this movie why is that. In a short summary the movie involves a person being questioned for staying out in the woods without any identification. When it turns out to be the Great Writer Onoff who doesn't quite remember how he came to that place. How the Inspector Da Vinci(Polanski) gets out the answer forms the rest of the story. Enjoy the movie except for one scene of crude nudity from Gérard Depardieu. That was scary!!!! I rate this movie 10/10 (inspite of Gérard Depardieu's scary back!!!)
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For some who did not catch it all.
jlm-29 August 1999
Warning: Spoilers
I will try to explain in my best english ( I am a french speaking person) the "unreal" issue of the movie. It's quite subtle but here what I understood of this story. Onoff is dead. He commit suicide (as we saw him do it) But before he can rest in peace, he has to remember and explain his acts and by the way his life and his identity to the inspector (an allegory for the guardian of The Heavens or any place you think we go after life..). Everything in this story takes place in the afterlife (except for the souvenirs of Onoff - is he On or off ?) . In this film, nobody is real. That's why everything is so strange. That's why the voice of Onoff cannot reach the woman he called at the end.

I hope this will enlight some of you.
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A masterpiece
saugoof6 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Film making does not get much better than this. This combines clever writing with great cinematography and fantastic acting. Without giving away too much of the story, Gerard Depardieu plays Onoff, a burnt out writer who finds himself at a country police station in the middle of the night in a big storm. He is being interrogated by Roman Polanski for a murder. However, this plot is just a framework of something bigger which I'm not going to give away here. The whole film takes place in one night and virtually the entire movie is shot within the police station.

There are a lot of things that aren't initially clear in the movie and this is definitely one that rewards repeated viewings. The ending is unexpected but after knowing how it finishes, watching the movie again really helps you pick up things that will make a lot more sense than on first viewing. This all makes it sound like a complex movie to watch, which is true to some point. However what makes this so rewarding is that even if you don't realise everything that is going on here, it still is fascinating to watch.

The cinematography is excellent and gives the movie a really claustrophobic feel. The attention to detail is quite breathtaking too, there is nothing that goes on that hasn't got some relevance to the story and much of it is not really obvious on the first viewing. The writing is very clever and I'm sure it was an inspiration for movies like "The Sixth Sense".

All this is good by itself, but the two things that really lift the movie above any number of other great movies is the acting and the use of language. Depardieu has made some stinkers in his time, which isn't surprising considering his workload. But that doesn't change that he can be one of the finest actors around. He's certainly not afraid to come across as a very ugly man here, physically and emotionally. But while great acting can be expected of him, the real revelation is Roman Polanski. He doesn't act in a lot of movies these days, in fact the only other movie I've ever seen him in was "The Fearless Vampire Killers". He plays the Inspector who admires Onoff but nevertheless has to interrogate him. The exchanges between him and Depardieu are an absolute pleasure to watch. Polanski speaks surprisingly good French and although Depardieu gets the better lines, as he would since he's a writer, Polanski is the smarter person and ultimately outwits him.

The acting, and indeed the entire film, has a bit of a theatrical feel about it. One the one hand you could almost say that it's bad acting since it never feels like you're watching anyone else than Polanski and Depardieu on screen. But they deliver their lines so well and work of each other so well that this is totally inconsequential. The other thing I have mentioned before is the use of language, this film is full of memorable lines and not a word is wasted. This is probably the closest I have seen films come to pure poetry on screen.
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One of the Best films I've seen
bicgus121 December 2003
I must thank Imdb, because I would have never watched this masterpiece if it weren't for it's user comments. The film is indeed remarkable, in the style of Adrian Lyne's "Jacob's Ladder", and although it's the kind of film that needs a second watch in order to get everything together, and that I got everything together thanks to some user comments, I was astonished to see how it worked over my feeling as if another part of me had completely understood the plot with just one watch. Warning: you might feel somewhat sad when watching this film. Not the kind of feeling of sadness of typical films in which a boy gets leuchemia; I'm talking about a DEEP, REAL feeling about life. The actors, the words, the scenography, they are all WONDERFUL. All. Do not miss it.
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I never forget this film
m_m-317 February 2006
It was a fantastic movie and it has a shocking ending. The performances was great specially Gerard Depardieu. It was one of the best mystery films after The Usual Suspects. And I think it should be in top 250 but it is not.

The direction was brilliant and you can not guess the ending. We can not forget the screen play all of It's words was amazing. All of the film is an investigation but you never feeling tired and I think the direction and screen play make it like this. You see this movie when you have an open mind because it makes some question in your mind. At last: I really enjoyed that and I gave it 10/10
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A true masterpiece
sashairk29 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A masterpiece, in a true meaning of this word. Yet, a very few people know about this gem; further, out of those few who saw it, only a small minority truly understood and appreciated it. It is a work of art, with masterfully written dialogs, haunting music (one of a very few instances where Gerard Depardieu sings) and a shocking ending. Never take for the 'face value' what you see there; there are many hints spread across it (actually, from the very beginning) that only towards the end make sense. It is the movie only for those who enjoy films like "The Sixth Sense," but this one is made on a much more sublime and sophisticated level. One of my favorite movies, if not The One.
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Like the Sixth Sense but even Better
Ken-20810 August 2000
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was a very interesting movie. Somewhat suspenseful but intriguing is a better description. It is very well done. At the end things suddenly change and I caught part of the meaning of the film. But then I stayed afterwards and heard other people discussing the film and I began to see there is so much more to this film than first meets the eye.

I really liked this film and I think if it was in English I could have grasped some things better. Even though this is a foreign film (in French) with English subtitles I still found it to be an excellent film.

The rest of my review has some spoilers but it may help you understand the film. (if you like to interpret the film yourself you may want to watch it first before reading my interpretation of what is happening). Here is what I think is going on in the movie:

While watching this movie it appears to be a typical story. A man got murdered. The main character is being investigated as being the possible murderer. Right at the end of the movie you learn the main character is actually dead and had committed suicide. The person he murdered was actually himself. The man is actually dead and is somewhere in between life and after life. His suicide has complicated some things and that is why he is going through this process. It's almost as though he is on trial for killing himself and reliving parts of his life. It's almost as though he could not go on to the afterlife because he ended his life prematurely and because of this he has to learn that he was dead. The guy doesn't know that he is dead until the very end of the movie (and the audience doesn't know that either).

That is interesting in itself but the movie goes one step further. If you pay attention you'll see that some of the other people involved in the movie are angels or some type of guardians to the afterlife. Other people are alive in the movie and seem to be ignoring this guy but later you realize he is being ignored by the living because he is dead and they are not aware of his presence. And I imagine there more things going on but this gives you a good idea what is happening.

This movie reminds you of the surprise that came at the end of the movie "The Sixth Sense" however there are more dimensions to this movie. It may be hard to catch everything that is going on and this is the type of movie you may want to see twice. However it is a very creative and interesting movie. I'd give this a score of 9 out of 10 stars.

In fact I liked the Sixth Sense but this movie is better. The ending is what made the Sixth Sense a great movie (8 out of 10 stars). However without that clever ending the Sixth Sense would have just been an average film. Likewise the ending makes this movie a great movie. However the other parts of this film add a lot of dimensions and interest to everything and the whole thing is a more creative concept.

That is why I think this movie ("Pure Formality") is even better than the "Sixth Sense".
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Una pura fantastica!
vensperme200314 April 2005
Take a deep breath, you cinefillic voyeur! Take a deep breath, sit down comfortably on your couch and think twice before you press play on your remote controller... Think twice since you are about to witness something that has never been seen before... Actually it has been seen later, but in much more unoriginal and uninteresting way. What you are about to witness in this movie is something between ON and OFF; you'll hear one of the greatest movie dialog ever spoken, you'll see thestunning performance of unbelievably excellent Polanski and surprisingly good Depardieu; you'll learn how the direction of the movie is supposed to be handled; you'll realize that you just THOUGHT that you know what is your life turning into... And finally, you'll find out the meaning of word MASTERPIECE.
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You will continue thinking long after the credits roll
rex-1014 August 2000
Warning: Spoilers
It is difficult to comment on the film without alluding to the plot or the ending. I would recommend this film to anyone old enough to ponder on life and death. Of course this does not deal so much with the meaning of life, as it does with the meaning of death. Hopefully I have peaked your interest. See this film. I think it might end up as one of your all time favorites.
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Excellent psychological drama with an unexpected twist.
ana_kon11 May 2006
This movie is one of the best psychological dramas I have ever seen. The unexpected twist at the end of the story will leave you shocked for many hours,may be days. Even though the story takes place in one place,and it is pretty much a play of two actors, those actors-Gérard Depardieu and Roman Polanski-actors of a world class, make it a powerful performance. The previous reviewer noted that "you expect it to get more and more tense as it goes along; unfortunately, that doesn't happen". That is true to some respect-movie lovers looking for some action may get disappointed. However, the brilliant, clever screenplay written by Giuseppe Tornatore will make you wonder and worry with the main character without even a clue on what was happening to him. This movie is absolutely brilliant. It will take a special place in my collection.
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More here than many may think, or want to think
bpstraycat10 May 2007
Marvellous work. Demanding of actors, director and audience. The dialogue fills the screenspace, the performances of the two main characters are masterpieces of consistency. I enjoyed it from start to finish and I hope you do as well.

The director keeps ratcheting up the tension and letting it fall back using very few devices. It has the feel of a stage play, and would perhaps transfer very well to the theatre.

Although some accuse the director of over-complicating things, I find the whole to be satisfying and simple. The lack of clarity of the storyline reflects the confusion in Depardieu's head.

If you want non-intellectual action, this film is not for you.
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Intriguing discovery
BermudezLievano21 December 1999
I watched this film captured by the presence of Roman Polanski in the credits. The result was very intriguing. Through the reminiscences of famous writer Onoff (Depardieu) and the shrewd interventions of the Inspector (Polanski) the crime is effectively solved. The dialogue is exceptional, and both men's performances are quite good. Basically this is a very interesting and intriguing film, and fortunately not pretentious. Highly recommendable.
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Who Are You?
theairburns17 June 2009
Those who have seen Roman Polanski in his film "The Tenant" will not be surprised by his pitch-perfect acting in "A Pure Formality". Nor will they not exult in his masterful attention to detail that he is famous for (as when he moves a pan of water on the floor with the toe of his shoe as he stares eternally at the source of a ceiling drip).

There are a host of meditations in this film, and have no doubt that this film is pure artistic meditation. The one that concerns me most is the meditation on what constitutes identity, and I would guess that Tornatore might respond that it can be found in one's cosmic gift and calling, whatever that may be. The universal existential problem arises when we mistakenly believe that gift and calling and our very lives have everything to do with ego and all its vain pursuits.
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What Cinema Should Emulate
malczk11 February 2003
American moviemakers take note. Intriguing scenery, Beautiful cinematography and relevant dialogue make for a pleasurable viewing experience. This movie is actually worth two hours of your life.

I won't reveal anything about this movie to spoil it's effects. I will say that this movie is similar to a well-written short story, or as close as a movie can come to piece of true literature.

For the spoken language, in whatever form, see this movie. For the visual movie seeker, though this ranks highly in my esteem, the best I have seen is Aguirre Wrath of God.
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Deeply strange
robert-temple-127 April 2013
This is an extraordinarily bizarre film written and directed by the immensely talented Giuseppe Tornatore, who is so well known for CINEMA PARADISO (1988), EVERYBODY'S FINE (1990, see my review), THE LEGEND OF 1900 (1998), THE UNKNOWN WOMAN (2006), and other films. He does not always get it quite right, as for instance with THE STAR MAKER (1995), which I thought misfired somewhat. In this weird, intense and claustrophobic film, Tornatore attempts to keep us on the edge of our seats for the entire time with suspense and tension, but it is only partially successful. The film stars Gerard Depardieu and Roman Polanski, who confront one another continually throughout the film in an interrogation situation, where Polanski is the 'Commissaire' (police chief) of an obscure place where it is always raining and the ceiling leaks, and Depardieu is the murder suspect. The film is shot in French, despite having an Italian title. DVDs with English subtitles are now very rare, and have become something of a collector's item, for those who want to collect it, that is! I sat through the whole thing and kept wishing Tornatore had pulled it off entirely, but both actors were incapable of the extreme, unrelenting intensity and the vast range of changing emotions required. There are moments when Depardieu is absolutely brilliant, especially when he becomes wistful. But the cascades of alternating confrontation and sympathy between the two men required greater masters of the acting art, and perhaps a more subtle script. Also, the film is deeply depressing and a real 'downer'. All that gloom and dripping water really gets you down after a while. Of course, the story has a profound explanation, the mystery is indeed deeply intriguing and surprising, and it all turns out to make perfect sense, and has a message as well. But to explain that would require discussing the ending, which is against IMDb rules. Anyone interested in Tornatore and his career needs to see this, as it is a one-off. The film is not recommended for light entertainment purposes. In other words, this is a film for cineastes, not for ordinary viewers. Of course, if you have a deep interest in Depardieu and Polanski as actors, you will need to see it, as they never did anything like this before, or since.
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Intimate little mystery
falconesque2 April 2003
I'll admit I channel-surfed into this gem. Click, and there's Depardieu, soaking wet and haggard, speaking French with English subtitles, in a lovely cluttered room...okay, I'm intrigued. (The room alone is enough to hold my attention; wonderful set dressing.) But moments later, the intrigue deepens. Who's that Inspector, so skeptical yet almost friendly in his interrogation? The actor looks so familiar. And his Inspector is nearly apologetic. Perhaps he's a fan of Depardieu's writer?

Boiled down to its essence, A Pure Formality is two guys talking, but I love two-guys-talking films. I was intrigued enough to avoid the listings and let the credits reveal Roman Polanski as acting the Inspector -- though he'd started his career acting, I'd seen only cameo appearances -- and his succinct performance dictates the pacing more often than not. You gotta like the guy, even though the Inspector's the antagonist to Depardieu's sympathetic and central point-of-view.

The film appeals to me as a writer, worrying if another eloquent phrase will ever flow, as a reader of mysteries and non-fictional criminal law (intertwining cluesmithing; you can keep the gory details), as a fetishist for the French countryside and language, and as a lover of libraries.

A Pure Formality is craftsmanship deserving a stellar DVD release.
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Praise for Polanksi and Gepardeau perfomance in "A Pure Formality"
bull10 July 1999
What an incredible work of cinema! Polanki's inspector to Gepardeau's suspect is a tour de force. The plot and ending was like a K.O punch from Ali. Cinemaphotography, excellent. It is one of the finest foreign films this cinema fanatic has had the pleasure to view. I highly recommend it..required viewing for Polanski watchers and made me a Gepardeau fan. Gave it a 10..high praise indeed.
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Top 5 of my life
cliffordlee7727 November 2005
Una Pura Formalita...One of the top 5 films of my life.........

The reason I include this film in the top 5 films of my life is because, it changed me. Really changed me. It showed me something about life. Something you can't learn about life by living life. Because what I learned about life from this film is BIGGER than that. A lesson about life that is BIGGER than the lesson you learn about life from LIVING life. Yeah, you read me right. You may know what I mean if you've seen "Far Away, So Close", and "Wings Of Desire", which is one story in two parts, and which is another film in my top 5 for the same reasons. Both offering an unlivelearnable lesson about life. I believe this is because we skim along in our day to day lives on the surface. And don't get too deep. Some films can, and do, focus us on a subject, and take us deeply into it, leaving us with a learning experience that stays with us long after. Like I say, some films DO go deep........but not THIS deep. And not on THIS subject. If you aren't similarly moved, either you slept through the film, or can't spell your own name, or I live in a dreamland, one. These are in the top 5 for me, for sure. I don't know what the other 3 are...hmmmmmmmm....maybe one of them is "The Last Picture Show"......yes.....that leaves two.

Clifford Lee Noble 26 Nov 2005
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Not only Movie ,A WHOLE NEW WORLD!!!
yekayek23 January 2010
Not lots of people will understand this fully,may find it even boring, some might understand none of it,because its a work of unique ART created by the fantastic sight of the director,performances of depardieu and polanski.it doesn't get more tense as it goes along?! No,it seems unreasonable to do that,since every moment of this is more tense than anything you've ever felt in your life esp. the ending,I didn't think that it's a story about a crime not even for a second,its a story about the very being of each one of us. one thing the movie tries to tell us is that onoff somehow regrets what he has done,because he makes that call,that call that he would have never made in his life.now he finally understands what was the right thing to do and he doesn't even care that its too late to make that call! he is sure enough to go for it.
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One of the greatest Thrillers
keldi-konung31 August 2013
The incomparable Giuseppe Tornatore, stunning Roman Polanski and magnificent Gerard Depardieu. The only way! How I can't like it!? I like films that make me think and feel ...

I was impressed by plot and the style & atmosphere of film. It was incredible – it gets me empathize to the characters from the first to last minute.

The screenplay for this film is absolutely amazing - completely unusual story and highly symbolic/philosophical subtext! You spend more than half of the movie thinking it will go one way, but then it absolutely change direction...again and again...

If you like good thrillers - you definitely must watch "A Pure Formality"
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A very underrated film
NurDerWind12 January 2012
A brilliant film in the best traditions of 'dialogue films' taking place in a sole location with very limited cast (e.g., Sleuth, 12 Angry Men). But the genre is very much different indeed. To tell the truth, it's very difficult for me to figure it out. Mystery? Sounds too philistine. Drama? Very epic word. Thriller? Not very precise, but it's not the point.

The film is very well shot, with both plot and actors' playing being on the highest level. It was rather unusual for me to see Depardieu not in a comic character - and Polanski not in a director's seat. But there must be something unusual in a high-brow film, if you come to think of it.

All in all, I'm sure, I'll check out other films by Giuseppe Tornatore.
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In Purgatory
claudio_carvalho2 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
There is a murder in a stormy night and a man (Gérard Depardieu) wandering without any protection from the heavy rain is arrested by the police with no documents. In the police station, he claims that he has a meeting with the Ministry of Culture on the next morning but he needs to wait for the Inspector (Roman Polanski). When he arrives, the man is arrogant and tells that he is the famous and reclusive writer Onoff. The Inspector is his fan and quotes many books written by him. When the Inspector interrogates Onoff, he is not able to recall his last four hours. Along the rainy night, the Inspector insists in interrogating Onoff since there was a murder nearby his house and the victim can not be identified. Who might be the victim and the killer?

"Una pura formalità" is an intriguing and theatrical film that is developed basically in one location. The screenplay and dialogues keeps the viewer curious about who killed who. Gérard Depardieu and Roman Polanski have top-notch performances and their duel is worthwhile watching. Unfortunately this film has only been released on VHS in Brazil. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Uma Simples Formalidade" ("A Simple Formality")
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Best film of the decade
ANelson12 December 1999
Anyone who hasn't seen this brilliant thought provoking peice is missing one of the finest films ever recorded (in my opinion it the third greatest movie ever, clocking in just behind Casablanca and M) Wonderfully directed by Roman Polanski and gut wrenchingly acted by Gerard Depardieu, this film is gripping from begginning till end. It follows the story of a man arrested for a crime he cannot quite remember, and as we follow the story the mystery unfolds slowly. It may take more than one viewing to unravel the complexities and symbolism of this movie, but when it becomes clear it hits you with stunning force. Anyone who thinks of Gerard Depardieu as the bufoon of english language movies need only see 5 minutes of his hulking, wounded performance here to understand he is an actor of enormous stature. This film is magic.
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Pass the Popcorn review
PassPopcorn24 September 2013
A Pure Formality aka Una Pura Formalità is one of the lesser known movies directed by the great Giuseppe Tornatore. It is undeservedly overlooked in spite of being nominated for a Golden Palm at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival (it lost to Pulp Ficton) and also being very influential. It's rather puzzling how A Pure Formality can be so obscure, since it stars two big names of the movie industry (Gérard Depardieu and Roman Polanski) and since it's a quite good movie.

A Pure Formality follows a man claiming to be the famous writer Onoff (Gérard Depardieu), who is found one stormy night in the middle of the woods by the police. They take him to the police station, which is shabby and old, where they wait for the Inspector (Roman Polanski) to question him. It turns out that the Inspector is a big fan of Onoff's writing and that a murder happened in the nearby woods. The Inspector suspects Onoff of murder and starts interrogating him.

The first thing to say about the movie is that is very minimalist – the majority of the movie happens in a single room, thus making the movie claustrophobic – and that it benefits mostly from the two brilliant lead actors. Depardieu is perfect as the somewhat mentally unstable writer Onoff, and Polanski is menacing as the mysterious Inspector, who introduced himself only as Leonardo da Vinci. Interactions between these two characters (which reminded me of the 1972 movie Sleuth) and the acting are the things that make A Pure Formality such a good movie. Essentially, this movie is a thriller/drama, but I also got a certain 70s giallo movies vibe from it, which is never a bad thing.

The movie is scored by the legendary Ennio Morricone and the soundtrack is used only occasionally but effectively. Tornatore masterfully creates tension thanks to this selective use of soundtrack and by using strange camera angles, close-ups and by creating a gloomy atmosphere in a decaying police station trying to withstand a huge storm. All in all, A Pure Formality is an overlooked 90s gem and a dark psychological thriller, which you should watch by night and which you'll never forget.

Rating: 8/10 Read more at http://passpopcorn.wordpress.com/
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A Must See Movie - Great acting and directing
darkrose_18 September 2010
I did some research about the director after seeing another one of his movies and this one peaked my interest. Obviously the actors in this film was the first, but the story was close second. I saw the movie and really enjoyed it.

I have to say that the beginning does drag a bit, probably because it is a puzzle that we unravel along with the inspector. So, there is confusion and things move slow.

However, as the pace picks up and we learn more and more about the characters, it does become more interesting.

The ending is shocking but really makes you think and definitely want to watch it again for more clues that you may have missed the 1st time around. I highly recommend to see the movie and then discuss with other people, like a good book that you can't wait to talk about with your friends and family.
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