DVD Review: The Kite Runner

Amir is a young Afghani from a well-to-do Kabul family; his best friend Hassan is the son of a family servant. Together the two boys form a bond of friendship that breaks tragically on one fateful day, when Amir fails to save his friend from brutal neighborhood bullies. Amir and Hassan become separated, and as first the Soviets and then the Taliban seize control of Afghanistan, Amir and his father escape to the United States to pursue a new life. Years later, Amir – now an accomplished author living in San Francisco – is called back to Kabul to right the wrongs he and his father committed years ago.

Director of The Kite Runner, Marc Forster seems more preoccupied with transferring only the story of Khalid Hossein’s novel to the screen than the intricate details and dramatic themes that lie just under the surface of each scene and the characters within them. Essentially, Forster has taken a tale of a friendship between two boys who are separated by a tragic act and a war-torn country and developed it into an easy to watch film where the culture, history and setting of the story almost become unimportant. Unfortunately the aversion of expanding upon these elements prove to be precisely what is lacking in The Kite Runner.

The first half of the film dedicates most of its time revealing the background of all the characters involved starting in pre-Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, some of the most important elements behind the foundation which the film sets out to develop are underemphasized. Relationships between characters develop way too quickly while the motivation behind their actions becomes difficult to understand. The core of the story revolving around the relationship between two Afghan boys from opposite backgrounds is rushed and lacking in depth. When the drama of the second half of the film kicks in, this lack of strong character development between these two characters prevents the events taking place from garnering an emotional depth that their relationship hints at. Furthermore, the failure to explore the various intricacies and elements surrounding the varying relationships of the other characters further prevents The Kite Runner from becoming a powerful drama. Rather, most of the film plays out as a very elementary drama where protagonists-antagonists tension becomes all too cliche and predictable ultimately leaving the climaxes of the story to fall flat and with all too little complication.

When the film does briefly touch on the cultural and emotional nuances, it is done without any strong commitment. This results in further uncertainty and confusion in what exactly drives the characters and the actions they carry out. Forster presents ethnic differences and the radical political changes of Afghanistan throughout the film but without any great clarity. Treated as secondary to the drama being playing out; the film is thus further affected overall.

On the other hand, the way in which The Kite Runner is presented allows it to be an easily enjoyable film that would appeal to most audiences. Which to Forster’s credit is a difficult task to pull off considering the subject matter. However, it also causes the film to come off all too light. For a story filled with such thematic elements as death, war, religion, immigration and child rape over the course of almost 40 years, it feels as almost a necessity to move beyond the surface of merely telling a story and takes the time to explore what is beneath its surface. Unfortunately, this never happens.

Admittedly, the very story being told allows The Kite Runner to remain a relatively interesting film that is not completely lacking. Furthermore, the saving grace for the film comes from Iranian born actor Homayoun Ershadi, whose versatility and depth successfully seems to string together scenes that are otherwise lacking in every other aspect. Having to go from an active, wealthy Afghani to a poor, frail immigrant living in America is impressive and makes the film worth watching just to see Ershadi’s performance.

Despite all its faults, The Kite Runner is still able to become a relatively amiable film that is without a doubt a good story. Unfortunately the very easy, conventional nature of how the film presents such a tale is also that which causes so much left to be desired by the time the credits begin to roll.

Review by Saxon Baird

Grade: C+
Official site: http://www.kiterunnermovie.com
Buy on Amazon: The Kite Runner

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