The Kite Runner

Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
The cover of the Kite Runner is a shot of the two main characters as boys, arms around each other’s shoulders, with kite on their backs as they face the Afghani Mountains. The cover is nicely done, and is a great introduction to the relationship that exists between the two boys.

The menu is also well done, with video from the movie playing above a small set of choices. The video is of the happier times of the film, with the two boys having fun and flying kites. It is a nice change from some of the more static DVD menus.

There are not a ton of extras included with the Kite Runner, but the extras are quite good. First, there is a “A Commentary with Marc Foster, Khaled Hosseini and David Benioff” in which the film makers and the author go through the film, give information about Kabul and Afghanistan, and go into depth about the movie.

Also included is a short entitled “Words from the Kite Runner” in which the two film makers go into detail about what they tried to bring to the screen from the book, while Hosseini details his thoughts on writing the Kite Runner. It was interesting to hear Hosseini’s view of Hassan being raped, which he extends to his view of how Afghanistan has been raped by the Russians and the Taliban, and how Hosseini feels that the world just sat back and let the rape of Afghanistan happen.

The last extra is “Images from the Kite Runner” which details the making of the film, and the technical aspects of the film.

Movie: 9/10
The Kite Runner is a movie based on a book by Khaled Hosseini by the same name. Hosseini is an Afghani who now lives in the United States, and this book is partially based on his experiences growing up in Kabul, and moving away to the United States. His view of the country as it is today is a vast change from the images and memories that he had living there as a child.

The movie starts in Los Angeles in the year 2000, with a grown Amir receiving a phone call from his long time friend Rahim, informing Amir that he should come home because “there is a way to be good again.” This cryptic message sees Amir leave his wife and his life in Los Angeles behind, as he travels back to Afghanistan (by way of Pakistan) to visit Rahim, and discover just what he needs to do to make things right.

Then the story shifts to Amir as a youngster living a privileged life in Kabul. Amir’s father Baba (who is excellently played by Homayoun Ershadi) is a wealthy, forward thinking man who drives a Mustang like the one driven by Steve McQueen in Bullitt. Baba constantly teaches Amir (Zekiria Ebrahimi) about life and the views of Afghani life that Baba believes in. The power that Baba possesses is a stark contrast to Amir’s inability to stand up for himself. Amir, when confronted by the local bully Assef, refuses to stand up for himself, and his savior is an unlikely hero. His bodyguard of sorts is a small Hazara boy named Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) who is the best of friends with Amir. Their relationship is somewhat odd considering the fact that Hassan is the son of one of Baba’s servants, and is from a lower class than Amir. Without so much of a thought, the two boys are inseparable, and when Amir is confronted by Assef, the bully, Hassan, the smaller of the boys, steps in time and time again to protect his friend. The devotion of Hassan to his friend Amir is close to that of brothers. The two boys spend lots of free time reading books (Amir reads to Hassan who does not know how) and flying kites.

Flying kites is a central theme in this film, and it should be noted that kite flying in Afghanistan was more of a sport than a recreation. It seems as if all of Kabul engaged in the sport, where one tries to cut the line of other’s kites. Once the opposing kite’s line is cut, the kite itself drifts along until it comes to rest far from the kite flyer. As the name of the film references, Hassan has an unbelievable ability to know just where the kite will land, and he often “runs” the kites for Amir after Amir beats an opponent.

It is after a tournament win that Hassan offers to get the last kite for Amir that trouble ensues. Hassan retrieves the kite, only to be confronted by Assef and his friends. When Hassan refuses to give the kite to Assef, the older boys brutally rape Hassan. Amir, who has come looking for Hassan, finds him before the boys demand the kite, but Amir is unable to do anything to save Hassan. Amir is unable to deal with his shame, and he causes Hassan and his father to quit serving Baba and his house, which is the last time Amir sees his friend. Soon after Afghanistan is invaded by the Russians, and Amir and Baba flee Kabul.

Back in 2000, Amir returns to find his father’s friend Rahim, who informs him that Hassan has died back in Kabul under the Taliban regime, and that Hassan has a son. Rahim also informs Amir that Hassan in fact was Amir’s brother. With his mind spinning, Amir decides that in order to make things right, he must enter his homeland of Afghanistan to save his cousin; Hassan’s son. In doing so, Amir learns to stand up for himself, and to face his fears.

The Kite Runner is a complex tale that is eloquently presented. The acting is superb, and the story, while complex, really presents the change in Afghanistan, and the way of life that most may not even know about. I was enthralled to learn of Kabul and the Afghani culture as it was presented, and the juxtaposition of the past with the bleak view of Kabul today is just devastating. There are several sub-stories that permeate this film, and they are just superbly presented. Amir’s life with his father in America is eye opening, and seeing Baba working at a convenience store after leaving his privileged life in Kabul is just devastating.

I really enjoyed the Kite Runner, and I thought that it was entertaining and educational. The film is difficult to watch at times, just because it is so heartbreaking, but without the anguish and pain, this would not resonate as much as it does with the audience. I thought the Kite Runner was excellent.

Video & Audio: 6/10
The video on the standard DVD was well presented. There were shots that seemed a bit fuzzy, but overall I thought the video was good. The cinematography was well done, and I especially liked the flowing shots of the kites as they danced in the sky. The contrast of the vibrant Kabul of the 1970’s with the stark, barren Kabul of 2000 was well presented.

The audio was also decent, and while the 5.1 surround sound was not used much, there were some shots where there were ambient sounds coming form the rear speakers. Much of the film relies on the conversations between the actors, and it sounded fine.

Value: 8/10
I truly enjoyed the Kite Runner, and I would recommend it to anyone. It is not a movie that I think I will view over and over again, just because it can be a tough film to watch. This is not a popcorn, Friday-night-with-friends type of movie, but it is great nonetheless. Rent it for sure, but make sure you are in the right mood.

Overall Score 8/10