Kite Runner (The)
R1 - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (31st March 2008).
The Film

In 2003 author Khaled Hosseini published his book “The Kite Runner”, the book gained critical praise and became a bestseller. The recent ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan and Iraq has paved the way for many books and films based on characters from these regions, as well as the effect the war has also had on the soldiers. It’s a popular subject of late and “The Kite Runner” success can be partially attributed to the current climate and news worthy focus on these areas of the world. Another aspect of its success can also be attributed to the book’s universal themes. It wasn’t long before the literary property was picked up for film production. Helmed by filmmaker Marc Forster, who uses the book as the template for this tale, those that treasure the book will be aware of the changes made. I doubt too much disappointment as the film presents the story in a cohesive narrative avoiding jumping back-and-forth in time the book does. Creative licence was taken to tell the story effectively without sacrificing tone and themes. “The Kite Runner” is a very sad and moving picture, one of the best of 2007 despite the controversy (more on that later).

“The Kite Runner” tells the story of two boyhood friends, Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) and Hassan (hmad Khan Mahmidzada). Amir comes from a well to do family in Kabul. His father is a successful and living in their house is his servant and his son, Hassan. As an adult Amir (Khalid Abdulla) is haunted by memories from his childhood. He watched his friend Hassan gets raped which formed a rift between the two boys. And when the Soviets invaded it drove them further apart as Amir and his father fled Kabul. Years later Amir discovers painful secrets about his past, Hassan is actually his brother and was killed in Afghanistan. Hassan had a son, and Amir travels back to Taliban controlled Kabul in order to find the boy and take him out of the country to be safe to make up for betraying his friend and give this young boy a better life.

Before the film’s release there was considerable controversy drummed up, for starters the Afghan government banned the film because of the rape scene (which was filmed tastefully considering they were child actors). Furthermore the lives of the child actors was put in jeopardy following the release of the film with fears that the rape scene could cause them social alienation and be ostracized from the community, according to the Wikipedia entry for the film Paramount paid to relocate the boys to the United Arab Emirates and pay for their well being. The controversy however doesn’t diminish the fact that the film is a solid piece of work.

Although some changes are made the film faithfully adapts the book, from the outset I was worried that the film would be in English with actors putting on an accent to play the Afghani parts but I’m happy to report that the majority of what takes place in Kabul is in their language. This film is untouched by the usual Hollywood tricks of making the film more appealing to American audiences. It’s a tough decision to make considering the marketability of subtitled fare in the United States but it’s a decision that supports the film’s artistic merit and authenticity. Bravo Dreamworks.

The film is centered on the story of the two children, half of the film is focused on what happened in Kabul when they were kids, until we see an adult Amir again having to go back to save Hassan’s son. The casting was crucial, and the filmmaker’s picked two local children for the main parts. And they performed incredibly well. Their turns were naturalistic, believable and you can tell that a deep friendship was developed. Working with children is difficult, they can’t work the same hours as adults, they have to be directed different, and special attention has to be paid in crafting a performance but Forster and his child actors have done a wonderful job here.

The film’s story is very moving, and Forster is no stranger to manipulating emotion from his audience considering he made the incredibly schmaltzy “Finding Neverland” (2004) and although “The Kite Runner” has its moments it doesn’t feel too forced or manipulative. Furthermore the technical aspects of the film were breathtaking from the cinematography to the music the whole film struck a balance between all the storytelling tools filmmaker’s use and the result is a film that deserves a much bigger audience that it originally received theatrically. “The Kite Runner” comes highly recommended and if you haven’t seen it or missed it at the local Cineplex when originally release then I’d give this disc a spin.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, this anamorphic transfer is just as I remembered it when seeing the film theatrically. The warm earth tones of Kabul are perfectly captured in the transfer, colors are well rendered and appear natural. Skin tones especially, black are deep and bold and shadow detail remains consistent. The film features an epic scope and the frame is filled with stunningly beautiful imagery that retains a lost of detail. I found little grain, dirt or other flaws as this was a clean and excellent transfer.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included in English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack, which is a bit misleading because there are many other languages represented in this track, primarily Dari as well as Pashtu, Urdu and Russian. For scenes that are not in English subtitles appear on screen. Dialogue is clear and distortion free and ambient sound makes effective use of the surround channels especially the scenes that take place in Kabul. The film's score also adds depth to the overall track. The track is not aggressive in the traditional action-movie sense of the word but it is in different ways, displaying a dynamic range and power acoustics this 5.1 track does the trick of immersing the viewer.
Optional subtitles are included in English, French and Spanish.

Extras

Paramount has released this film with extras that include an audio commentary, two featurettes, a PSA, the film's theatrical trailer and a collection of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up we've got a feature-length audio commentary by the film's director Marc Forster, novelist Khaled Hosseini and screenwriter David Benioff. The track focuses mainly on story elements but does branch out further into the production process, the casting and working with the kids. Forster asks Hosseini questions along the way about the novel and various aspects of the story's development. It's an interesting track but not very lively and I found my interest wain half way through.

Next is "Words from The Kite Runner" a featurette that runs for 14 minutes 25 seconds, this clip takes a closer look at the book and the author's background. We get a sense for the story's structure and developing the narrative. While Forster comments on the metaphors that make this an interesting story. The clip glances over the author's experiences returning to Kabul as well as the themes and characters among other things is explored.

Following that is "Images from The Kate Runner" a production featurette that runs for 24 minutes 38 seconds and takes us behind-the-scenes of the filming. The clip plays out like an extended EPK with interviews with various key cast and crew telling us how important this project is and what a great director Forster is. The footage features the production on location filming various scenes from the film and also covers aspects like creating an authentic experience, on the languages portrayed in the film, casting the children as well as the adult parts, plus looks at post-production briefly as well among other things.

The disc also includes a public service announcement by Khaled Hosseini which runs for 1 minute 19 seconds. This clip can be viewed before the start of the film or individually in the special features sub-menu. In this clip the author talks about the state of Afghanistan and what we can do to help.

The film's original theatrical trailer is next and runs for 1 minutes 51 seconds.

Rounding out the extras is a collection of bonus trailers for:

- "Son of Rambow" which runs for 2 minutes 27 seconds.
- "Cloverfield" which runs for 2 minutes 15 seconds.
- "Stardust" which runs for 2 minutes 28 seconds.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: B+ Overall: A-

 


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