I was actually not really amped to see this tale of Afghani woe called The Kite Runner. But, in my own defense, I didn’t know that it was directed by Marc Forster, of Stranger Than Fiction and Finding Neverland fame.
This is the story of a rich boy who is best friends with his servant, a “Hazari” boy who is, in most ways, of a superior character than his master. Hassan is brave, loyal, fearless, and highly protective of Amir, even when being terrorized by the neighborhood thugs. Amir is cowardly, and upon witnessing Hassan’s victimization and doing nothing, tries to drive Hassan and his father away.
This drama is interrupted by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Amir and his father flee to America, where Amir makes a life as a writer. 20 years later, he receives a call that summons him back.
(As a footnote, I’m not sure if it’s the passage of time that makes it permissible, but the Soviets take it in the shorts in this movie, as they did in Charlie Wilson’s War. Apparently, when they invaded a place, they were all about the raping and pillaging. I never saw this kind of negative PR when they were in business, nor in the ‘90s.)
Anyway, this film lands a few good punches, as when Amir’s proud, intelligent, noble father ends up working at a convenience store, or when the family is at a swap meet and runs into a Afghan general. And mostly pretty tight for a running time of over an hour. (It does drag in the middle a bit, as The Boy pointed out.)
Also post-Taliban life in Afghanistan–when Amir goes back after the Soviets have been repelled and the Taliban is in control–is genuinely horrifying on a lot of different levels. It doesn’t seem like we hear much about this, except in the context of how it’s America’s Fault™. The Afghanis obviously don’t feel that way (versus how they feel about the Russians, as is made clear several times in the movie).
Contra Atonement, the cowardly character is given a chance at redemption and takes it, even when it can mean his life, his dignity, his safety, his comfort, and for that it’s a far more watchable movie.
Ultimately, I wasn’t expecting something quite this brutal (the implicit violence is horrifying, there’s little violence shown on screen), but there’s no doubting this is one of the best movies of 2007.
As another footnote, the Hazara thing is reminiscient of the Star Trek episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, where the two characters are half-white and half-black but hate their racial differences. Seriously, the Afghans could all tell the difference between the Hazara and the Pashtun, but I sure couldn’t. (The “Hazari” are a Star Trek race, even!)
Crazy humans and their prejudices.