Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Film Review: The Kite Runner

"The Kite Runner" *** (out of ****)

Marc Forster's "The Kite Runner" is a story about friendship, loyalty and becoming a man. About learning to have courage to stand up for what you believe is right.

The film is an adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's novel which takes place in Afghanistan, in the city of Kabul around 1978.

Amir (played as a child by Zekeria Ebrahimi) is a coward. He has no courage. He is consistently bullied at school and does not defend himself. His only friend, Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) comes to his rescue when in trouble time and time again.

This worries Amir's father, Baba (Homayoun Ershadi). He feels a boy who will not stand up for himself will later become a man who does not stand up for himself. He is ashamed of his son's weak nature. Baba is a fighter. He opposes much of what he sees happening in the world around him and is not afraid to say it.

It is through the father the viewer gets a sense of political history. Politics is not a prominent part of "The Kite Runner" but we hear characters discuss the Mullahs, Communist, the Soviet Union and the Taliban. Baba is an educated man who has a more liberal mind. Amir would very much like to please his father by gaining his strenght.

The two boys enjoy flying kites and dueling. The object is to cut the string of your opponent's' kite. Amir is seen as the best and Hassan is his kite runner. He chases after the fallen kite. One day after a tournament a group of bullies corner Hassan. Amir tries to rescue Hassan by chasing after him. While hiding in a corner Amir sees the group pick on Hassan. First they beat him for the kite and then they rape him. Amir looks on. He now recognizes he is a coward and what his father was talking about. Amir simply looks on and witnesses his only friend get beaten.

Amir becomes so guilt ridden he can no longer look Hassan in the face. And his guilt turns to anger as he cuts off all ties with his old friend. But this rival between the boys must come to an end as the Soviet Union has invaded Afghanistan. Baba must leave the country as he is a known anti-Communist.

The rest of the film takes place in San Francisco in the year 2000, where Amir is now married and has written a book. After receiving a phone call from an old friend of his father, Amir must now go back home to take care of his father's sick friend.

It turns out the friend was not sick after all but wanted to inform Amir, Hassan has died and his son is now in an Orphanage. He would like Amir to find the boy and take him back to America. He also reveals an old family secret, which will not be revealed here, which further prompts Amir to find the boy.

This then becomes Amir's chance to become a man, and to rectify the past. Can Amir overcome his past sins?

Marc Forster has proven himself to be quite a talented director. Prior to this film he has directed "Finding Neverland", "Monster's Ball" and "Stranger Than Fiction". And we can see connections between "Neverland", "Ball" and this film. They each have characters who must prove themselves to society and must find inner strenght. They are initially weak characters who search for inner-strenght.

Something about "The Kite Runner" reminds me of Mira Nair's "The Namesake". Both film revolve around family secrets and show us the journey, both emotionally and physical, foreigners must go through when coming to America. Both films are also about second chances and discovering your roots.

Much of "The Kite Runner" is shot fairly conventional. The film mostly succeeds on an emotional level. We come to understand all of the characters involved and grow to care about them to a certain extent. The only area where the film fails is by losing track of the Hassan character, who is just as interesting as the Amir character. It would have been interesting to see what happened to his instead of being told in dialogue. Then the viewer could compare and contrast the life choices these two men have made and how that fateful day affect both of them.

"The Kite Runner" was nominated for an Oscar for its musical score and received a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Foreign Language Film".