Khaled Hosseini's widely beloved book has been lyrically brought to the big screen by Marc Forster and scripter David Benioff (The 25th Hour). It has a sweeping quality as it moves from America to Afghanistan and back again.
This translation is arguably as moving like Forster's previously plaudited Monster's Ball and Finding Neverland. It's presented with relative simplicity and affection toward its antecedent. The delayed release is respectful of the off screen life of one of its youthful actors involved in a scene filmed with much care, at least for discerning viewers.
Initially, one sees a man, Amir, with his wife in 2000 California holding his published book before his mind takes him back to his youth.
The screenplay then becomes divided into three parts. Back in 1978 Afghanistan, Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) enjoys the companionship of the son of his father's faithful servant, Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada). His widowed father Baba, an imperious, quite distinguished Homayoun Ershadi, admires the closeness of these two 12-year-olds. Among their favorite things to do is kite flying with Hassan being the runner, able to follow his shadow to bring a natural wonder to the experience of holding something moving high in the sky.
The controversy around the film arises in a scene where Hassan gets trapped by some bullies and Amir observes his molestation, but is too scared to help his friend. His silence has had an effect on him over the years, even after Baba and him have come to live in California in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Some ten years hence, his father toils at a gas station and the young adult Amir (Khalid Abdalla) hasn't become a doctor like his father wished. The aspiring writer becomes attracted to the daughter (Atossi Leoni) of an another Afghan who fled the country who shares his love of reading and books. The couple will tie the knot after one of those arranged courtships. All the while, Baba's health is clearly in decline. The separation and conflict from one's heritage and culture is expressed quite well in this passage.
As the last act connects with the opening, sadness has hit Amir in spite of his authorial success and pleasant life with his spouse. A phone call shakes him up about a young boy (Ali Dinesh) remanded to an orphanage in Pakistan. Tension arises as he heads to the unstable Kabul to give him a new life in America, which happens to be part of the film's major revelation.
Some may take issue with some of these scenes leading to the climax involving loyalty and the Taliban which may not have the right melodramatic connective tissue. Yet, the drama ultimately has an emotional payoff, punctuated by some computer-generated kite sequences.
Forster gets the most out of a production with the Afghanistan settings shot in China, even with the music at moments a little overstated. Yet, his care and restraint given the nature of the material helps particularly in performances which never lose continuity. Abdalla (one of the hijackers in United 93) makes the most out of his central straight role, doing quite well especially opposite the charming, yet cogent Ershadi who shines in a bar and during an examination. The Kite Runner soars with a spirit of storytelling in the winds of change and dislocation.