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DREAMWORKS

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Marc Forster
Cast:
Khalid Abdalla, Atossa Leoni, Shaun Toub, Sayed Jafar Masihullah Gharibzada, Zekeria Ebrahimi, Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada
Writing Credits:
David Benioff, Khaled Hosseini (novel)

Tagline:
There is a way to be good again.

Synopsis:
Amir and Hassan are inseparable boyhood friends in Afghanistan during the '70s, even though Amir is the son of a wealthy businessman and Hassan is the son of a servant. As the country falls into chaos, Amir is forced to leave the country with his father, leaving Hassan and his family behind. Years later, Amir is tortured by having abandoned his best friend, so he returns to Afghanistan, which is now suffering under Taliban rule, to find him. Based on the bestselling novel.

Box Office:
Budget
$20 million.
Opening Weekend
$47.713 thousand on 35 screens.
Domestic Gross
$15.319 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish

Runtime: 127 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 3/25/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Marc Forster, Author Khaled Hosseini, and Screenwriter David Benioff
• “Words from The Kite Runner” Featurette
• “Images from The Kite Runner” Featurette
• Public Service Announcement with Khaled Hosseini
• Trailer
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
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RELATED REVIEWS


The Kite Runner (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 13, 2008)

In the PR materials for 2007’s The Kite Runner, we’re told that the film is “based on the beloved best-selling book”. I assume this is correct, but since I usually read non-fiction, this one essentially flew under my radar. Oh, I’d heard about it, but I knew little; I didn’t even possess the cursory knowledge of Runner that I took into The Da Vinci Code, another smash book I didn’t read.

And I must admit I kind of dug the fact that I went into Runner with so little foreknowledge, as it left me open to the story in a broader than usual manner. We meet a pair of Afghani boys named Amir (Zekiria Ebrahimi) and Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada). Their tale starts in 1978, as the wealthy, non-confrontational Amir and the streetwise, tougher Hassan – also the son of a family household servant - prove inseparable. They especially love to enter kite-flying contests in which Amir takes the lead and Hassan is his second in command, also known as a “kite runner” since he chases down the ones that get “cut” and set loose.

Unfortunately, their friendship won’t last. When some bullies assault and rape Hassan, the passive Amir fails to do anything to help his friend. Amir’s guilt and self-loathing make it difficult from him to spend time with his pal. To that end, Amir frames Hassan for the theft of a watch, and although Amir’s dad (Homayoun Ershadi) forgives the boy, Hassan’s father (Nabi Tanha) refuses to stay in the family’s employ and they depart.

Not long thereafter, the Soviets invade Afghanistan, so Amir and his pop flee the country. They plan to return once the aggressors depart, but that doesn’t take place. We follow up on the family in 1988, when we find Omar working at a gas station in California and Amir (Khalid Abdalla) a recent college graduate. The film takes a brief sojourn there to show some life developments before it heads to 2000. The rest of the movie follows Amir’s path as he attempts to right some wrongs.

As I noted at the outset, I never read The Kite Runner, so I can’t discuss whatever charms its boasts as a novel. I certainly expect it must work much better in text form than on the big screen, as the cinematic version of Runner suffers from quite a few flaws.

The film works best during its first act back in the 1970s. The tale of Hassan and Amir as kids proves reasonably involving, though even that encounters more than a few problems. For one, it involves an awful lot of predictable elements, like when it becomes inevitable the bullies will do something to Hassan. Sure, we don’t know what, but there’s no chance at all that the story won’t take that path. This means the flick lacks much that surprises us, as even after this inevitable confrontation, nothing we can’t anticipate occurs.

Young Amir creates his own concerns. He’s so unsympathetic and unlikable from the start that we find it terribly difficult to invest in his story. I suppose we should allow him some ethical liberties due to his youth, but he always comes across as a snooty coward and not a kid with whom we can empathize. Ebrahimi seems okay in the part, but he can’t muster the emotional range necessary to give us some affection for Amir.

Matters don’t improve once the film leaves Afghanistan. The entire 1988 segment feels completely pointless, as the plot points it contains could’ve been summarized in a very short segment. This section doesn’t last more than 25 minutes or so, but it goes nowhere other than on a detour to Weepytown. This act grinds the film to a halt and doesn’t remotely connect to the main story. Runner could easily lose the entire section and be none the worse for it.

When we get to 2000 and Amir’s quest to rectify some issues, the film remains stalled. Actually, it turns into yet a different genre flick, as it now feels like an 80s action movie. As adult Amir winds his way into Afghanistan, I half expected Rambo to pop up and mow down the Taliban.

Another weak performance doesn’t help. While Ebrahimi failed to make Amir sympathetic, at least he gave the character some personality. As the adult Amir, Abdalla is so dull he insults dishwater. He presents absolutely no charisma; I’m amazed that his image stuck to the film, as he’s relentlessly forgettable and creates a negligible presence. And this guy is supposed to be our protagonist? I’ve seen baked potatoes with more spark to them.

Runner isn’t a complete loss, as a few good moments occasionally arise. In particular, we get a very nice performance from Mahmoodzada as the young Hassan. Yes, that’s an easier part than Amir, but he adds a directness and honesty to the part that make him effective. Mahmoodzada creates some of the film’s only compelling moments.

Maybe if Madmoodzada stayed on screen through the flick’s whole 127 minutes he could’ve redeemed The Kite Runner. Unfortunately, he vanishes after 50 minutes or so, and the rest of the film can’t even remotely sustain our interest. The mix of absurd third act plot twists doesn’t help, as they feel like desperate attempts to maintain our attention. They don’t work.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

The Kite Runner appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film featured a spotty but generally decent transfer.

Many of my concerns related to sharpness. Though the majority of the movie boasted good clarity and delineation, some moderate edge enhancement ensured that more than a few shots seemed a bit soft and muddy. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, though, and source flaws remained absent.

In terms of color, the film’s palette tended toward a subdued tone, especially during its first half. While in Afghanistan, the flick usually displayed sandy yellow visuals that made sense within the setting. The colors became more natural in America but remained low-key. Occasional instances of more dynamic hues proved well-rendered. Blacks were acceptably dark and tight, while shadows were a little iffy. They generally came across as clear, but a few murky scenes resulted. The ups and downs left this as a “B-“ presentation.

I felt more pleased with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Kite Runner. Since the film offered a character drama, the soundfield usually remained subdued. Music featured excellent stereo imaging, and street scenes provided a nice sense of environment. The most involving sequences came from those during the Soviet invasion, as they gave us some vivid action. Otherwise, this was a modest soundscape, but one that satisfied.

Audio quality was always positive. Speech sounded concise and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music was lively and full, while effects came across as accurate and clear. While the mix never dazzled, it seemed quite good for the material.

We find a handful of extras here. First comes an audio commentary with director Marc Forster, author Khaled Hosseini, and screenwriter David Benioff. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss the source novel and its adaptation, casting and performances, sets, locations and period authenticity, and some other shoot specifics.

This turns into a serviceable commentary but not better than that. I like Hosseini’s notes about autobiographical elements and facets of the Afghan community, as those create the most interesting aspects of the piece. The tracks becomes too much of a mutual admiration society, though, with lots of praise and a fair amount of banality as well. You’ll learn a reasonable amount about the subject but don’t expect an above average commentary.

Two related featurettes appear next. We locate Words from The Kite Runner (14:25) and Images from The Kite Runner (24:38). Across these, we get movie clips, shots from the set and comments from Forster, Hosseini, Benioff, producers William Horberg, Walter Parkes, and Rebecca Yeldham, editor Matt Chesse, art director Karen Murphy,and actors Khalid Abdalla, Atossa Leoni, Homayoun Ershadi, and Shaun Toub. “Words” looks at the source novel, its creation and autobiographical elements, aspects of the story and characters, and the book’s adaptation. “Images” examines Forster’s approach to the project, the film’s authenticity and use of language, casting and performances, production design and other visual choices, locations, music, and the movie’s ending.

As you would anticipate, a moderate amount of information repeats from the commentary. Nonetheless, the addition of behind the scenes visuals helps, especially via elements like screen tests. We also get more than a few nice insights into the production. There’s a lot of the usual happy talk, but there’s also enough good material to make this a useful program.

A brief Public Service Announcement with Khaled Hosseini lasts one minute and 18 seconds. Hosseini asks the viewer to participate in organizations that work on the conditions in Afghanistan.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Son of Rambow and Cloverfield. These also appear in the Previews area along with a promo for Stardust. In addition, the DVD includes the trailer for Kite Runner.

While I have no idea how The Kite Runner fares as a book, as a movie, it’s something of a mess. Its three sections feel barely connected and they all suffer from a variety of problems. The DVD provides decent to good picture, audio and extras, though none of these excel. This is a perfectly acceptable release for a flawed film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main