Friday, January 11, 2008

The Kite Runner (***)

Directed by Marc Forster


Within the story of The Kite Runner you have something that is incredibly touching, painfully sad, profoundly heroic, and simply wonderful. Based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, the film translates comfortably to the screen within the hands of director Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland).

The novel was well-loved by it's audience, but it seemed unlikely that it would transfer to the silver screen without some shade of prepackaged Hollywood filmmaking. Well, the movie does not walk away unscathed, but Forster does a good job of keeping the integrity of the story, and more importantly, keeping the heart. Dealing with such issues as child abuse and the tyrannical violence within Afghanistan, it seems strange that this film comes off feeling rather uplifting, but the story finds the satisfaction in the character's redemption.

The story deals with the boyhood friendship between Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) and Hassan (Amad Khan Mahmidzada). Amir's father Baba (Homayoun Ershadi) is a powerfully rich man who has Hassan and his father work as servants in their home. Living almost like brothers, the two boys become incredibly close friends, and spend all their time flying kites and going to the movies to watch The Magnificent Seven. Amir loves to write stories and reads them to Hassan, but Baba does not see his writings as anything special. Baba knows of Amir's cowardliness toward bullies, and is ashamed that Hassan must stand up for him because he cannot stand up for himself.

Hassan is a skilled kite runner, which is a term to describe someone who knows how to run down a wild kite that has just been cut from it's string in the middle of the air. When Hassan goes to run down a kite for Amir he is cornered by the usual bullies who hate him because of his Haraza heritage. Amir sees the confrontation, where Hassan is beaten and raped, but runs away in fear instead of helping his friend. Hassan limps away quietly, but Amir's guilt plagues him. He begins insulting Hassan and even frames him to look like he is stealing from Baba. Hassan takes it in stride, which drives Amir even more crazy with culpability.

When Communist Russia bursts into Afghanistan, Baba and Amir escape Afghanistan and move to Los Angeles. Twenty years later, Amir (Khalid Abdalla) is married, a college graduate, and a published novelist. He gets a call from one of his father's associates giving him a cryptic message: Hassan has been killed and his son is in an orphanage deep within the Taliban in Afghanistan. For his friend Hassan, and other revealed personal reasons, Amir must return to a land he no longer knows to save Hassan's son.

More than anything, the film deals with Amir's redemption. Despite the success of graduating from college and getting married to a beautiful wife, Amir has never been able to forgive himself for his cowardice so many years ago. His fight with his conscience and his growing bravery is what makes the film so interesting.

The film is subdued by some rather muted performances in the film, but that seems forgivable seeing as the entire Middle Eastern cast was being directed by the European Forster. That said, one of the wonders of the film is the performance by Homayoun Ershadi as Baba. Ershadi, an actor who has seldom made appearances in American films, is the heart of most of the movie. He starts the film as a powerful man with money growing from his fingerprints, and ends as an ill man whose skills never got him any more than a job at a gas station in America. His integral role is the most warm-hearting of the film.

With this film, Marc Forster continues his trend of interesting filmmaking. His films have varied greatly from the indie melodrama Monster's Ball and last year's particularly under appreciated comedy Stranger Then Fiction. This film is not perfect, nor does it evoke feelings of a film that will be remembered for years to come, but it is something that is truly sincere and touchingly sweet.

1 comment:

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