Genre: Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 8 min.
Release Date: December 14th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Marc Forster Actors: Khalid Abdalla, Atossa Leoni, Shaun Toub, Zekeria Ebrahimi, Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada, Homayoun Ershadi, Nabi Tanha, Elham Ehsas
he Kite Runner” is clearly one of those stories that, while astounding on paper, couldn’t survive the transition to the big screen. Visualized for a new medium, it has all but lost its potency and entertainment value. It covers familiar territory that many other films have already overkilled, contending with – this year alone – the superior likes of “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which examines an identical time period and the same war but with the addition of humor and intelligent dialogue; and even “Lions for Lambs” or “The Kingdom,” each offering current takes on Middle Eastern military action; as well as “Atonement,” with its comparable notes on morality and armed conflict.
In 1978 Kabul, Afghanistan, two good friends fly kites in local competitions. Little Amir Agha (Zekeria Ebrahimi) is from a wealthy family, while poorer pal Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada) is employed by Amir’s father. The two have a great deal in common, including thorough enjoyment of the values and excitement seen in “The Magnificent Seven.” Hassan would do anything for Amir, looking up to and often standing up for Amir against older bullies. But when Amir abandons Hassan during a particularly uneven fight, his shame and guilt provoke him to instigate the firing of Hassan’s father, Ali (Nabi Tanha) – but the two have already decided to leave. As the Russians begin to invade Afghanistan and it becomes unsafe for Amir to stay, he’s taken to America, where he can attend college and become a fiction novelist. Although he never sees Hassan again, two decades later he has a chance to save Hassan’s son from a dire fate in war-torn Kabul.
Tales of loss, guilt, regret, and woe are often emotional, inspiring, or crowd-pleasing, but somehow “The Kite Runner” manages to be none of those things. Toward the end of the film, it’s apparent that regardless of how many little wins Amir can achieve, his homeland is still lost to hopeless tragedy. His plight to rescue Hassan’s son becomes small and meaningless, especially when confronted by the orphanage owner who laments that saving one child won’t help the hundreds who perish at the hands of the Taliban. The broad scope of horror portrayed in the film prevents much satisfaction, despite the ability for the main protagonists to prevail in their own private missions.
“The Kite Runner” is yet another film that doesn’t stick to chronological order – which doesn’t denote it as faulty, but it certainly feels unnecessary. It’s not that mixing the order of events is inherently bad (it can be quite powerful when done properly), but here it does nothing – not technically or artistically. The deviation from standard structuring is just one more element that is terribly predictable; as are the eventual defying of pointlessly proud customs by the liberal Amir, the failure at atonement with Hassan, and the lifeless skirmish at the Taliban stronghold.
For all of the adventures that befall Amir, the film certainly possesses a shocking way of aborting any suspense. Early on, during the big kite-flying competition, the cinematography attempts to make sailing recreational toys exciting – but the computer-animated flapping of parafoils in the wind never becomes even remotely tense. And it proves to be yet another completely foreseen venture. Later, the rescue attempt that brings Amir back to the bloodied streets of Kabul is unable to come anywhere close to the notion of thrilling.
One of the stories that Amir writes as a child is about a man who discovers that his tears turn into pearls when he cries into a magic cup. At the end of the story, the man sits atop a mountain of pearls with his dead wife and a knife in his hand, having killed her to summon a few extra tears. His story symbolizes the dark, pessimistic thoughts that run through Amir’s mind, but this short fable sounds like it would have made for a far more fantastic feature than this end result. “The Kite Runner” was a noble effort by director Mark Forster (“Monster’s Ball,” “Finding Neverland”), but it has forfeited the brunt of its originality – and moving narrative – during its untimely adaptation to film.
– Mike Massie