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Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Local opening date: December 21, 2007
Reviewed by Diane Carson
Unsurprisingly, writer Khaled Hosseini's immensely popular novel has been made into a feature film, a feat that will undoubtedly please some readers and appall others. For any nearly-400-page book adaptation must jettison huge portions of character development and interaction.

A literary work has certain merits, cinema others. It's more apples and umbrellas than apples and oranges with two distinctly different media. That accepted, director Marc Forster's realization of David Benioff's screenplay of The Kite Runner suffers from some of the same weaknesses and can boast some of the strengths of the original. The story is still much too predictable, melodramatic, and clichéd for my taste. It benefits from its political milieu and cultural elements though, again, both should have much more complexity, increased depth and breadth. The film does maintain a nice momentum over its two hour plus running time with good technical work presenting heartfelt but sometimes bland performances.

The film opens in San Francisco, 2000, with Amir receiving a fateful phone call from family friend and mentor Rahim Khan. This call triggers a flashback to Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, 1978, and the 12-year-old friends involved in the exciting kite tournament. Pashtun Amir quite expertly maneuvers his kite, using the glass shards set in the string to cut and send opponents' kites crashing. Amir's friend and servant Hassan, Hazara, retrieves these kites as prizes, but a physical attack on him serves as the catalyst for all that will follow: betrayal, regret and shame, attempts at redemption and forgiveness much later in life.

Contemporary issues define the character's lives: emigration, arranged marriages and the place of women, filial piety and tradition, the Taliban and political indoctrination. Shot in super-35 millimeter, some of it on location in Chinese desert sites near Afghanistan, The Kite Runner becomes increasingly gray before the Russian invasion with a muted color palette complementing the emotional oppression and repressive violence. More camera movement in Afghanistan adds energy and music reinforces the locales. But The Kite Runner doesn't soar, lacking the ability to probe the personal and political traumas to their truly tragic intensity. In English and in Dari, Pashtu, Urdu and Russian with English subtitles. At Landmark's Plaza Frontenac Cinema.

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