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The Kite Runner

A Worthy Adaptation of the Novel

Based on Khaled Hosseini's bestselling novel and directed by Marc Forster (Stay, Finding Neverland), The Kite Runner is a drama set in Afghanistan before the invasion by the Soviet Union in 1979 and during the Taliban regimeís final year in power. Connecting both past and present through an act of betrayal and its consequences, The Kite Runner is a moving, poignant, and yes, an ultimately uplifting film. Unfortunately, the film is undermined by an overlong second act.

As The Kite Runner opens, Amir (Khalid Abdalla), a novelist living in California, receives a call from an old family friend, Rahim Kahn (Shaun Toub), he hasnít seen since Amir and his father, Baba (Homayon Ershadi), a once-successful businessman, fled Afghanistan following the Soviet Unionís invasion of their country. Amir has settled down, marrying Soraya (Atossa Leoni), the daughter of General Taheri (Abdul Qadir Farookh).

Driven by a sense of loyalty toward Khan, Amir travels to Pakistan, where he finds Khan gravely ill. Khan, however, isnít interested in himself or Amir, but in one of Amirís friends, Hassan. Hassan remained in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation and the aftermath. Khan asks Amir to enter Afghanistan illegally and rescue Hassanís son.

Pre-invasion, a young Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) lived comfortably and had a good life, including a loyal best friend, Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada), whoís also the son of one his fatherís servants. Due to their social differences and Babaís preference for the strong-willed, fearless Hassan, Amir treats Hassan with veiled resentment at times. After an annual kite flying competition, the bonds of their friendship are tested when Amir silently witnesses an act of violence.

Fans of Hosseini's much-lauded novel should be satisfied with David Benioffís (Troy, The 25th Hour) faithful screenplay. The Kite Runner retains all of the major incidents and plot points from the novel while, by necessity for a two-hour film, trimming or eliminating scenes, subplots, and characters. Even then, the long middle section set in the United States could have been trimmed significantly.

As strong as the scenes in the United States are (and they are, thanks to pitch-performances by a cast of relative unknowns), following Amir as he graduates from college, begins writing, and gets married, simply mark time before Amir is compelled to return to Afghanistan to redeem himself. Itís here, during the long middle section that The Kite Runner loses dramatic momentum.

Given how cruelly Amir ultimately acts toward Hassan, some moviegoers might be unwilling to extend any sympathy or empathy toward Amir, let alone care whether heís redeemed or not, especially since his redemption is put on hold after he moves to the United States.

The Kite Runner is nevertheless an engaging, moving experience, especially in the scenes set in pre-invasion Afghanistan, thanks to Forsterís deft touch with his actors, especially Zekeria Ebrahimi and Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada. Given the grim subject matter, The Kite Runner puts Ebrahimi and Mahmidzada through a great deal emotionally and surprisingly enough, they never falter. As for politics, like the novel, The Kite Runner wisely keeps that in the background, while making the obvious, if no less necessary point, that authoritarian regimes, regardless of ideology, dehumanize victims and perpetrators alike.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars