Movie Reviews
11:48 am
Mon December 17, 2007

The Kite Runner

A model of fine filmmaking . . .

After seeing the prosthetic legs dropping from the sky by parachute in Kandahar (2001), one of the most memorable images in all of cinema, I wondered why there weren't more stories coming out of such a tumultuous country, tied to Americans forever by 9/11. And now I think I know why.

Such a beautifully-wrought adaptation of the wildly-popular novel of the same name, The Kite Runner is a model of fine filmmaking in almost all respects except one: It's too pat. So maybe Charlie Wilson's War will show me that films about Afghanistan will not revolve around formulae and clich?s.

The redemption of the protagonist, Amir (Khalid Abdalla), has been told forever in literature and film, just not in Afghanistan. So no matter how tear-jerking the film may be, it is still a story told many times of a man who commits an egregious sin as a child but redeems himself in the end with an act of courage. Meanwhile, director Marc Forster and screenwriter David Beniof lace the film with the major motif, kite running, to such an ingenious extent that it not only ties in the hero's youth with his maturity, it also provides a figurative way of showing the desolation and hope of the country mixed of course with contradictory elements such as cutting string and blessed artificial legs.

Thus the film as metaphor is a success in showing the dismal past of a struggling country and its hopeful future. The cinematic images also emphasize this duality: The vistas with snowcapped mountains and endless plains deflect the vision of a barren land where trees that manage to grow have been cut down by invaders, in this case 1979 Russia. The titular activity flourishes in large part because the arid, stony land offers few other possibilities. When the land is revisited in 2000, the limited country seems almost completely bereft of color and resources, a gray prison that parades adulterers to be stoned in the soccer stadium and little boys abused by an out-of-control Taliban.

But true to the formula, Amir has a second chance. I hope Afghanistan shares a similar fate.