Released on DVD this week. PG-13?
Kite-flying was a very competitive sport in 1970s Afghanistan. Sharp glass was glued/tarred to the kite strings so other kites could be “cut”, thus sending them to the ground. 2 boys: Amir (an expert kite-flier) and Hassan (his “runner” – who helps with the string and fetches fallen kites) are picked on by teenagers who don’t approve of Hassan’s genetic material (he’s from a different part of the country). After a kite-flying victory, Hassan is anally raped by the local teens while Amir hides and refuses to help. This event divides the 2 boys and after the Russians invade in 1978, Amir and his father immigrate to California. (Click below for what will be known in the future as the "Anal-Rape Kite Movie")
Amir and his father Baba struggle to get by in California, working at a gas station and selling crap at a flea market. Amir meets and marries an Afghan woman and Baba dies of cancer. Years later (in the year 2000, in the year 2000), Amir gets a phone call from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and is asked to help find Hassan’s son. In the third act of the film, Amir returns to his home country to assuage his guilt for not helping his former best friend.
Khalid Abdalla (the hesitative terrorist pilot in United 93) plays the adult Amir with the requisite restraint but demonstrates surprising range in dealing with his difficult father-in-law, his troubled (future) wife, and his disapproving father. Homayoun Ershadi is superb as Baba and the father-son issues are beautifully explored. The third-act trip to Afghanistan is somewhat fanciful and the first act is brutally long (I have limited interest in kites, anal rape, or foreign language coming-of-age stories). Director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball (B), Finding Neverland (B+), Stranger Than Fiction (B)) is one of the most versatile and reliable directors working today. He always brings beautiful images and honest emotions. It will be interesting to see what he does with the next James Bond movie: Quantum of Solace.
Like Atonement, The Kite Runner has a novelist trying to atone for a prepubescent sin. The “sin” here is of neglect and the redemption seems more earned than Atonement’s Briony. This is one “Middle East” film that seems pro-America since it depicts the Taliban as ruthless and intolerant and America as the best place to escape the horrors of the Russians and the Taliban. (Suck on that anemic box office, Stop-Loss – the latest “America Sucks” genre film.) Some pacing issues aside, The Kite Runner is a rewarding and interesting journey into another culture. B
Note: It probably deserves an “R” rating for the realistic stoning of a woman and the rape scene (which is brief and mostly implied).