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THE KITE RUNNER (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 9, 2009 by  



Excellent, moving and just a powerful film!  Well-cast, great cinematography, perfectly edited, awesome performance from the cast, beautiful musical score… everything just comes together for this film.  ‘THE KITE RUNNER’ is simply magnificent!”

Images courtesy of  © 2007 by DreamWorks Home Entertainment

TITLE: THE KITE RUNNER

DURATION: 127 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

RATED: PG-13 (For Strong Thematic Material Including the Sexual Assault on a Child, Violence and Brief Strong Language)

COMPANY: DreamWorks Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2009

Directed by Marc Forster

Screenplay by David Benioff

Based on the book by Khaled Husseni

Produced by William Horberg, Walter Parkes, Rebecca Yeldham, E. Bennett Walsh

Executive Producers: Sidey Kimmel, Laurie MacDonald, Sam Mendes, Jeff Skull

Director of Photography: Roberto Schaeffer, ASC

Production Designer: Carlos Conti

Edited by Matt Chesse, A.C.E.

Costume Designer: Frank Fleming

Co-Executive Producer: Bruce Toll

Music by Alberto Iglesias

Cast:

Khalid Abdalla as Amir

Zekeria Ebrahimi as Young Amir

Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada as Young Hassan

Homayoun Ershadi as baba

Atossa Leoni as Soraya

Nabi Tanha as Ali

Bahram Ehsas as Wali

Tamim Nawabi as Kamal

Shaun Toub as Rahim Khan

Sayed Jafar Masihullah Gharibzada as Omar

Elham Ehsas as Young Assef

Said Taghmaoui as Farid

Abdul Salam Yusoufzai as Assef

Abdul Qadir Farookh as General Taheri

Amir is a young Afghani from a well-to-do Kabul family; his best friend Hassan is the son of a family servant. Together the two boys form a bond of friendship that breaks tragically on one fateful day, when Amir fails to save his friend from brutal neighborhood bullies. Amir and Hassan become separated, and as first the Soviets and then the Taliban seize control of Afghanistan, Amir and his father escape to the United States to pursue a new life. Years later, Amir – now an accomplished author living in San Francisco – is called back to Kabul to right the wrongs he and his father committed years ago.

Excellent, moving and just a powerful film!  Well-casted, well-shot locations, magnificent performances and cinematography.  Just excellent!

I was very impressed by “THE KITE RUNNER” but expected a magnificent film in the hands of director by Marc Forster (known for films such as “Quantum of Solace”, “Stranger than Fiction”, “Finding Neverland” and “Monster’s Ball”) and a screenplay by David Benioff (“Troy” and the upcoming “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”).

Based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, the film starts off with a couple in Fremont, California.  Amir (Khalid Abdalla) has received copies of his just-published book and is excited for his book tour.  His wife Soraya (Atossa Leoni) supportive, is just in love with her husband is happy that he has accomplished his first fictional book.

But Amir receives a phone call from Rahim Khan (Shaun Toub), who tells him that he must return to the Middle East in Pakistan because he needs to see him.     Soraya is worried if it’s dangerous for him to go back but Amir feels that he needs to go back because without Rahim, there would be no book.

1978

The storyline now shifts to 1978, a young Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) and his good friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada) are involved in a kit competition.  A popular past time in Afghanistan at the time, kids compete in a sport where one would knock the other kite down and be the last one flying.  One person controls the kite, the other controls the spool and gives their suggestions.  But Amir and Hassan loses the match.

As they go home, you realize that Amir comes from a well-off family.  His father Baba (Homayoun Ershadi) is a wealthy man but also a major critic against radical Islam and communism.  As Amir comes home, he overhears his father talking to his business partner Rahim Khan and how he wishes his son to stand up for himself and be a man and not let anyone fight his battles.

The following day, you learn about Amir and how he loves writing books and loves to read it for his friend Hassan (who can’t read and write).  Hassan is a loyal friend and servant of Amir.  He lives with Ali, his father who has been with Baba’s family for many years.

But not many people in Afghanistan are happy that Amir and Hassan are friends.  Assef, an older teenager and his friends bully Amir and Hassan because Hassan is a Hazara (Shia Muslims with Mongolian ancestry who have faced several wars and persecutions in Afghanistan since the 18th Century).  Assef hates Hazara and he hates Amir because he is weak.  But each time they look like they are going to beat Amir and Hassan up, Hassan guards Amir with a slingshot.

Amir evaluates his friendship with Hassan.  Are they truly friends or is he boy that does everything he says because he is a servant?  Nevertheless, this sticks in his mind.

During another kite competition, Amir and Hassan compete once more but this time his father and Rahim Khan watch him.  Amir is determined to win for him but also for his father and he does.  The kids celebrate Amir’s win and Hassan goes to find the final kite that Amir beat as a reward.

But Hassan hasn’t come back.  Amir is worried for his friend and when he goes to find him, he sees Assef and two others bullying him.  The bullies want the kite or else he will be beaten.  Hassan stands up for Amir’s win and will not give the kite to them, so he is beaten and to disgrace him even further, Assef rapes and sodomizes Hassan.  For Amir, he is to weak and runs off.

When he sees Hassan in pain (and bleeding), Amir pretends that nothing happened and for the next few days, Hassan stays in his bed not wanting to talk with anyone.  His father Ali asks why his son is not talking with him and then Baba starts to question Amir.  But what upsets Amir even more is it seems that his father cares about Hassan and Amir gets jealous.  Jealous because his father acknowledges the servant too much and that he sees Hassan stand up for himself and for him and yet, he is to weak to do anything.

So, Amir tries to find a way for Hassan to get in trouble and be disgraced by his father.  Knowing his father is against thievery, Amir sets a plan to set Hassan up by hiding his watch in Hassan’s bed.  When he tells his father that Hassan stole his watch, thinking his father will get rid of Hassan, doesn’t.  Hassan and Ali knows that Amir did this but yet Hassan, in his loyalty to Amir, says he did steal the watch.  Baba forgives him.  But Ali says that they must leave, Baba doesn’t want them to but Ali and Hassan leaves the household.

Meanwhile, things are not going quite well in Afghanistan.  The Russians have entered Afghanistan in Aug. 1978 and the beginning of the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan has begun.  Knowing that they will be killed because of his anti-communism ideology, Baba and Amir leave their home to Rahim Khan and they flee the country with nothing but the clothes on their backs and Baba with Afghan soil he keeps in a minature capsule.

1988

Ten years later, we see that Baba now works at a convenience store and Amir has graduated from community college.   Baba would love for his kid to become a doctor but Amir who has always enjoyed writing, wants to become a writer. One thing that is evident is that in the eleven years they have been in the United States, Baba has aged considerably.  No longer the suave rich man, he and Amir live a simple life and try to make ends meet.

Both Amir and his father work at a swap meet to make ends meet and that is where Amir meets Soraya, the daughter of a major General in Afghanistan (General Taheri).  Baba senses his son is smitten with Soraya and tells his son not to ruin his reputation with the General.  Soraya loves reading books and when Amir finds out, he shares his manuscript with her but her parents realize that Amir is getting to close to their daughter and the General gives Amir a warning.

Meanwhile, Baba is very sick.  Amir takes his father a doctor and realize that he is dying.  As Amir takes care of his father, Amir makes a request for his father, to talk to the General and that Amir wants to marry Soraya.  Baba meets with the General, meanwhile Soraya tells Amir about her background and her life but she does tell Amir that she would love to marry him.

Amir gets the General’s blessing and the two get married and live together.  And Baba, there long enough for Amir’s wedding and to have a daughter-in-law dies in peace.

Present Time

Amir goes back to Kabul to meet with Rahim Khan in Pakistan.  When he meets an older Rahim Khan, he learns that his mentor and his father’s business partner and best friend is dying.  At first Amir thinks his friend wanted him to come to Pakistan to meet him and get him some medical help but that was not it.  Rahim Khan has kept Baba’s family secret for so long that before he dies, he must let Amir know.

Amir learns that his father Baba had a baby with one of the servants and that baby was his friend Hassan.  Ali raised Hassan like a son but the reason why Baba has always cared for Hassan was because he was a son and because his son was part Hazara, it had to be kept a secret.

Amir learns that while Rahim Khan was taking care of the family home in Afghanistan, because he was getting sick, he had to leave for medical help in Pakistan and thus Hassan and his wife watched over the house.  Hassan got married and had a son named Sohrab (a name that Amir had for a character in his book which he would read to Hassan when they were younger).  But because he was Hazara and living in an expensive home, Hassan and his wife were treated as thieves and were murdered by the Taliban and their young son Sohrab was taken to Pakistan.

Amir is devastated to hear that all this time, Hassan was his brother.  Rahim Khan gives him a photograph of an older Hassan with his son Sohrab and tells Amir that he needs to make things right.  He must go to Pakistan and get Sohrab.

This leads to an adventure filled with danger as Amir must return back to his Afghanistan, now ran by the Taliban, and get Sohrab.  Once known as a weak boy, will Amir have the strength to make it up to his friend, his brother Hassan and get Sohrab.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“THE KITE RUNNER” is featured in 1080p High Definition and just looks incredible.  Of course, “KITE RUNNER” can no way be filmed in Afghanistan but in order to recreate Kabul 1978, the film was shot in Central China in Kashgar.  An area in China that has a large number of Muslims and a countryside that resembles Afghanistan.

So, with a lot of the shots taken place outdoors, the picture quality is well done.  From 1978 getting a land full of color and vegetation up to the present time of showing the same area that lacks the vegetation but with destroyed buildings.   Definitely what looked as impossible to create, was made possible and from costume design to overall look between 1978 and 2003, the crew of “THE KITE RUNNER” did a remarkable job.

I found no artifacts or any blemishes, the blues and earth tones really come out strong in terms of picture quality.  I have always felt that director Marc Forster, cinematographer Roberto Schaefer and editor Matt Chesse form a remarkable team in nearly every film the three have worked together.  “THE KITE RUNNER” just features beautiful imagery and well-timed edits.  Just a beautiful film to watch and to see how both the beauty and destruction of a city were captured on film.

As for audio, audio is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD.  Must of the film is subtitled in English but the dialogue comes out quite clear.   As does the score.  The film is not an action film (although the latter part of the film does feature some action).  But overall, the film is clear from your front channels and sound quite good.  Also, a French and Spanish audio 5.1 Dolby Digital track is included.

As for subtitles, English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese are included.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

For the special features, the following are included:

  • AUDIO COMMENTARY –  Commentary by Marc Forster, Khaled Hosseini and David Benioff are included.  So, far every film that I have watched on Blu-ray or DVD featuring Forster on commentary have always been informative and have provided great insight for the film.  “THE KITE RUNNER” is included.  There was so much involved into the making of this film.  From finding the cast of children to play the role of young Amir and Hassan to filming in China and creating Afghanistan 1978 and modern times.  Very good commentary track.
  • Words from the Kite Runner – This is the behind-the-scenes featurette (about 14-minutes long) with interviews with Marc Forster, Khaled Hosseini (how he written the book and how he also lived in Afghanistan before moving in 1976 and returning back to the land) and more.
  • Public Service Announcement with Khaled Hosseini – A public service announcement that is optional to be seen before the film or on the special features for support for services (education, job training, health services, etc.) for Afghanistan.
  • Images from The Kite Runner – A 25-minute featurette with behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the film plus interviews with Marc Forster, producers, crew and some of the talent.  Really good insight on from the screenwriter, producers and novel writer Khaled Hosseini of how Forster wanted to make the filming in China look authentic as if it was taking place in Afghanistan.    The challenges they faced in making this film and also the decision of languages and subtitles, etc.  How it became an International film of finding talent all over the world but yet having a cast of 60-70% from Afghanistan. A lot of work went into creating this “authenticity”.  Also, footage of the auditions for the casting of young Amir, young Hassan and Sohrab.  And Khaled Hosseini talking about how the ending is much different from the book and happy to have it much more uplifting.  Especially with Forster who believes in showing hope.
  • Theatrical Trailer HD – The trailer for “THE KITE RUNNER” in HD.

“THE KITE RUNNER” is a magnificent film.

Well-written, performances were magnificent, cinematography and post-production from editing to CG, everything just came together for this film and I was truly moved by the power of this film.  Friendship, family and hope.

I know that Khaled Hosseini took some heat for his book and learning from the special features, even the producers anticipated fear for those who were willing to take on the role in making the film.  But director Eric Forster was really important in getting the ball rolling and his staff of talented individuals were just as much up to the challenge in their role for the film and making sure that authenticity in making the film believable was a major importance in the creation of this film.

Before watching this film, I knew nothing about Afghanistan.  But this film really caught my interest in learning more about the country and the history of what happened in the last 30 years and more.  So, I’m quite grateful for this film for peaking my curiosity and at least opening my eyes.

As for the Blu-ray, the picture quality is wonderful, the film is primarily dialogue but the music by Alberto Iglesias is powerful and definitely emits the mood and atmosphere for the film.  The special features were informative and really provided great insight to the film and if anything, makes me even prouder of the work of everyone involved and again, another magnificent work courtesy of Eric Forster and team!

By saying so much positive about the film, my only negative feeling is what has happened afterwards to the children who portrayed the characters.  These children did a magnificent jobs playing their characters but since filming of the movie, these children and their family now live in life of fear and constant threats.  The studio is doing what they can to help these children and their families but unfortunately, for these children and their families, what may have seemed quite a positive situation to be in a film that would seem worldwide, unfortunately becomes quite political and damaging to their own personal lives.  These children did a magnificent job but at the same time, it’s hard to read about their current plight in their home country because of the film.

With that being said, “THE KITE RUNNER” is a magnificent film that helps us on the outside learn a little about the Afghanistan that the book writer Khaled Hosseini lived in back in the 70’s but a film that would show the fall of Afghanistan due to the Soviet invasion, how many moved to Pakistan, the political ramifications that exist within cultures and much more.

But again, it’s a story about friendship, family and hope.  And “THE KITE RUNNER” is an excellent film that shows us that no matter how bad things can get, there is always hope.

Highly recommended!

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