Based on the best-selling debut novel by Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner tells a powerful story, covering twenty-plus years, about one Afghani man who has struggled since childhood with the challenges life presents: family and friendship, failure and redemption, all while his country goes through great upheaval at the end of the twentieth century.
Amir is an author living in San Francisco in 2000 when he gets a call from family friend Rahim Khan that he is needed back in his homeland of Afghanistan. The story flashes back to Kabul, Afghanistan 1978 when Amir was a young boy living a comfortable life with his father Baba. His mother died during childbirth.
Hassan is Amir’s loyal friend and servant. His father Ali has served Baba and his family for 40 years. They are Hazara, a minority group to the more prevalent Pashtun. The boys are best of friends who love American movies and kite flying, a great pastime in Kabul. The activity is so competitive that fliers coat their strings so they can battle and cut another’s line. The losing kites drift off and become the property of whoever finds them. Hassan has a great ability to find downed kites.
One day, some bullies corner and brutally attack Hassan. Amir, out of sight and frozen with fear, can only watch in horror. Later, he is so riddled with guilt and embarrassment he lashes out on Hassan and treats him rudely, throwing things at him and even framing him for theft. Hassan remains loyal to Amir and accepts it all. Hassan’s father is shamed and they leave Baba’s home against Baba’s wishes.
Afghanistan goes through great turmoil. The Saur Revolution in 1978 led to the Soviet Invasion of 1979. Many Afghani people left the country, including Amir and his father. They head to Pakistan and eventually make their way to the United States, ending up in Fremont, CA in 1988. Baba who used to be a wealthy businessman becomes a gas station owner and he and Amir work a local swap meet where they meet General Taheri and his beautiful daughter Soraya.
Amir returns to his homeland to meet Rahim Khan, not completely certain what he will find. He learns that Hassan has a child who has been taken prisoner by the Taliban and also learns a startling secret about his father. Amir decides he must rescue the young boy “to be good again,” to redeem himself and his father for their past sins.
The Kite Runner is a wonderful film that pulls at the heartstrings without being too sappy or contrived. It opens up a part of the world rarely seen in films, yet the characters are not strangers. Once passed the surface, the common humanity we all share is revealed. Their lives and actions are familiar and believable, although some moments are aggravating and uncomfortable. The story has some tough moments, but they pay off with a rewarding conclusion.
Director Marc Forster does a fantastic job overseeing a lot of talented work that went into the film. The actors all do a great job, particularly the children who have to deal with some very emotional scenes. The cinematography and production design look are well done. Kabul is recreated in different stages from the vibrant beauty in 1978 to the desolation after the Soviets and Taliban. The only slight the film has is the CGI of the kite-flying looked unrealistic at times, although it is likely the best way to recreate those scenes from the book.
Extras include a commentary track featuring Forster, screenwriter David Benioff, and novel writer Khaled Hosseini together in a mutual-appreciation society. They talk about their work and their working together. Hosseini understands the limitations of the adapting his work and seemed more than happy to go along with needed alterations. “Words from The Kite Runner” is a short feature that examines the novel and author while “Images from The Kite Runner” is longer and examines the work that went into the film.