The Kite Runner

Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) and Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) were the best of childhood friends and the most skilled in doing battle in the air with their kite. But, Afghanistan is on the verge of war and the best buddies are separated forever. 20-years later, Amir (Khalid Abdalla) returns to his home country to find his friend but it is a different world, one dominated by the iron hand of the Taliban, making his mission impossible in “The Kite Runner.”

Laura's Review: C+

What happened to the Marc Foster who made the compelling indie "Everything Put Together," then followed up with the roar that was "Monster's Ball?" "Finding Neverland" began the whiff of Hollywood sellout with its high gloss and sentimental whitewash, but boasted strong performances and ideal holiday placement. "Stay" featured showstopping visual design, but its story was pretentious, its ending a letdown. "Stranger Than Fiction" felt like a lackluster retread of an earlier, better film sporting the same concept. "The Kite Runner" is a bland, Hollywood production that tells the story the novel's author outlined without giving it any but the most obvious themes - that one can redeem oneself of an old wrong. But what happened to the subtext of class (it's there, not just explored very much) and the idolized Baba (Homayoun Ershadi, "A Taste of Cherry") who feels there is 'something missing' from his boy only to be revealed as having done something worse than his son? Yes, Baba has his own moment of redemption, but without giving weight to his sin, it lacks power. The father's servant, Ali (Nabi Tanha), whose relationship with Baba so closely mirrors that of his own son Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) and Baba' son Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) is nothing but a background character with perhaps 2-3 lines - his whole backstory is concentrated into a short reminiscence of Baba's best friend, Amir's godfather and moral compass Rahim Kahn (Shaun Toub, "Crash"). "The Kite Runner" features top notch production values including Alberto Iglesias's moody score and Carlos Conti's ("The Motorcycle Diaries") vividly contrasting production design. Foster has done a terrific job with his two child actors, both convincing, but the current day action lacks the drama of the flashbacks, despite the Taliban, a stoning and child abduction. Khalid Abdalla ("United 93") is a bland adult Amir who does not succeed in making us feel the burden of his guilt.

Robin's Review: B-

Amir is the pampered son of his Babba (Homayoun Ershadi), a prominent Kabul businessman worried over the imminent invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. The boy’s best friend, Hassan, is the son of Babba’s manservant and the two children are inseparable. Amir declares his undying friendship to Hassan but when his friend is brutally assaulted by several street toughs (which Amir observed), he is guilt-ridden with his cowardice for not helping. The guilt drives a wedge in their friendship and remains there until Babba decides to flee the country before he can be arrested by the pro-Soviet authorities. Decades later, Amir gets the chance to return to Afghanistan to find long lost Hassan. When he arrives, he learns that his friend is dead but left a son behind. He also learns that the boy was taken by the Taliban and may likely be dead. Amir vows to find the boy, if alive, and take him to America. This begins a journey into the hell perpetrated by the radical Islamic-fundamentalists upon the country and the Afghan people. Amir must risk life and limb if he is to save the boy. This epic story, by novelist Khalid Hosseini, is adapted for the screen by David Benioff and directed by Marc Forster. The result is an uneven mesh that intrigues with the boys’ tale and the trauma their friendship suffers but loses steam in its latter half. Older Amir travels through a maze of horror in his quest and sees, first hand, the evil that the Taliban has inflicted on his country. This evil is manifested when, following a lead on the boy, he is witness to the true nature of the new order – a young burqa-clad woman is stoned to death for adultery before a cheering crowd. It is a gut-wrenching scene and shocking. The rest of the rescue mission, though, feels artificial, especially when Amir dons a false beard and turban to infiltrate the Taliban stronghold. Marc Forster does a competent job with the material but does not convey the essence of the acclaimed novel. I wonder what a different director and screenwriter would have done with the source material.