The Kite Runner (2007)

Genre(s): Drama
Paramount Vantage || PG13 - 128 minutes - $29.99 || March 25, 2008
Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2008-04-16


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Marc Forster
Writer(s): Khaled Hosseini (novel); David Benioff (screenplay)
Cast: Khalid Abdalla, Atossa Leoni, Shaun Toub, Sayed Jafar Masihullah Gharibzada, Zekeria Ebrahimi, Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada


Theatrical Release Date: December 14, 2007


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Director, Novelist and Writer Commentary
  • Words from The Kite Runner
  • Images from The Kite Runner


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

Upon its release a few years ago, Khaled Hosseini’s novel "The Kite Runner" became an instant bestseller. As expected, Hollywood decided to capitalize on the huge success of the novel and made it into a film just a few years after its release. Stories of people from the Middle East are something that most westerners don’t really know much about. With all that has happened since 9/11, more and more stories are coming out from that region as Americans, along with the rest of the world, begin to learn about the cultures from that region.

The story itself is actually a very good one. The film follows two childhood friends, Amir and Hassan in Kabul just before the Soviet invasion. Amir is the wealthy educated one and Hassan is the son of a servant and is illiterate. Despite their differences, the two become best friends as they take part in “kite fighting” with one another. As the Soviets begin to invade Afghanistan, the two are forced to be separated as Amir and his family move to America. The story then begins to follow an older Amir as he tries to track down Hassan and his roots.

As I mentioned, the story is very unique in the sense that not many stories from the Middle East make it to mainstream filmmaking. Up until this film, almost all films from the Middle East were strictly made in their respective countries with mostly non-actors. In this film, there is a $20 million budget, numerous shooting locations and while there are numerous non-actors in the film, there are still several professional actors. Without a doubt, the highlight of the film is the performance by the two young actors who play Hassan and Amir. Zekeria Ebrahimi is Amir while Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada plays the young Hassan. I found the most interesting scenes in the film to be between these two characters. Khalid Abdalla also steps in and gives a fine performance as the older Amir. While the acting is solid all around, I believe it is the screenplay and weak direction that hurts the film.

David Benioff, a novelist himself, adapts the novel into a screenplay. As well know by now, it is almost impossible for anyone to adapt a 400-500 page novel into a 100-120 page screenplay. Thus, in most cases, the book is always better than the film. While I have not read the novel, it is obvious that some scenes were either left out or abbreviated for time purposes. I also felt that Marc Forster’s direction was not as strong as it should have been. While he is one of the more talented directors working in Hollywood today, Forster tends to be hit and miss with his films. I am not sure if it is because he is not familiar with the region and the culture of the Middle East but it felt like the direction lacked focus throughout the course of the film. Many of the scenes lacked authenticity and felt too artificial. Not to say that only a director from the Middle East can tell a story from that region but I would point to films such as The Color of Paradise by Majid Majidi, Jafar Panahi’s The White Balloon, Bahman Ghobadi’s Turtles Can Fly or any one of Abbas Kiarostami’s films to get a true look at life in the Middle East.

Still, I commend Marc Forster for taking on a film of this nature. I found the direction of the “kite fighting” scenes as well as the scenes between Amir and his father to be among the best scenes in the film. While the film does have its weaknesses, it is great to see stories from the Middle East make it to mainstream Hollywood.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

The DVD includes a Commentary with Marc Forster, Khaled Hosseini and David Benioff. I actually found this commentary to be quite interesting for the fact that it is rare for the author of a novel turned into a film to discuss the changes and differences between the two mediums. Hosseini is very grateful and not bitter at all that some things were either omitted or added to his story. It is also an interesting commentary because we get to hear from the adapter of the novel and the original novelist. All three add their insight into the process of taking the book and making it into a film.

Words from The Kite Runner is a 14 minute look at how Khaled Hosseini came up with the book and how it eventually was made into a film. Hosseini discusses the impact of 9/11 on his book and the interest from publishers around the world.

Images from The Kite Runner runs about 24 minutes and focuses on more of the filmmaking process. Many of the scenes for the film were actually shot in Kashgar, China, which doubled as Afghanistan. The films casting, art direction, score and cinematography are all discussed.

Finally, the DVD includes a short PSA from Khaled Hosseini along with a trailer gallery.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

The film is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen enhanced for 16:9 TV’s. The picture quality is crisp throughout the course of the film. The contrasts between the intense heat and desert feel of Afghanistan versus the scenes in the United States come off very well. The film’s audio specifications are English 5.1 Surround with options for the same track in French and Spanish. The film’s majestic score comes off very well on the DVD.



.::OVERALL::.

While the film does have its share of flaws, it is still worth checking out for the simple fact that stories from this region have rarely been told on a mainstream level. While I still highly recommend films such as Turtles Can Fly, The Color of Paradise and Crimson Gold over this film, The Kite Runner is still a good film with a unique story. Khaled Hosseini already has his second book out, A Thousand Splendid Suns and not surprisingly, it became an instant bestseller. It will be interesting to see how that book is adapted and which director will take on the task of telling another story from this war torn region.