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Khalid Abdalla
Homayon Ershadi
Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada
Atossa Leoni
Zekeria Ebrahimi.
Marc Forster.
David Benioff.
Running Time
128 minutes

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The Kite Runner
Performances soar in Afghan-set epic

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In San Francisco, novelist Amir (Abdalla) reflects back on his childhood in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the terrible events that befell him and his servant/best friend Hassan (Mahmidzada) before the Soviet invasion in 1979.

The Kite Runner
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Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner was one of those word-of-mouth print hits, just challenging enough, yet just populist enough, to win over reading groups on either side of the Atlantic. Still, it’s not exactly what any right-minded person would call enjoyable, and given that much of the action occurs in Afghanistan, with a pivotal scene involving child rape, it’s surprising that it ever made it to the big screen.

Not only that, but scripter David Benioff (25th Hour, Troy) has proven largely faithful to Hosseini’s work - although you’d expect a delicate  handling of the material given that much was based on the author’s own experiences.

Perhaps ‘delicate’ is the wrong word, though. Both the source and its adaptation are frustratingly heavy-handed at points. The story feels too contingent on coincidence, too tidy for something which presents such a complex, messed-up situation as the ethnic divisions in pre- and post-Soviet Afghanistan. For the sake of neat parallels and clear dramatic echoes, what could be a big, sprawling story is boiled down to the interplay of just a handful of characters, all loose ends neatly tucked away.

Weirdly, this means that, in terms of Marc Forster movies, The Kite Runner has more in common with the pristine likes of Finding Neverland (even beyond the CG-assisted kite-flying scenes) or Stranger Than Fiction (with which it shares some tumbling fruit imagery) than it does with the scuzzy domestic gloom of Monster’s Ball. However, whichever genre he tackles - and Forster seems determined to match Peter Weir for genre-hoppery - he is, like Weir again, a master of finding the strong, warm pulse of humanity in any script through the performances he teases from his cast.

Whatever your ethical stance with regard to Forster’s choice to use real Afghan kids in the film (some of whose families fear them becoming pariahs in their less-than-tolerant homeland thanks to their involvement in the rape scene), there’s no denying the power of their turns. As the young Amir, the son of one of monarchist-era Afghanistan’s wealthier businessmen, Zekeria Ebrahimi emanates an intelligence and sensitivity that belies his age, transforming what could be inexplicable actions into somehow understandable responses to horrific events. As his best-friend Hassan, a lower-class ‘Hazara’ Afghan, Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada is guaranteed to get tears welling. Bold and loyal to the point of self-sacrifice, the character could easily have come across as an unrealistic ideal, but due to Mahmidzada he’s heart-achingly convincing.

The adult cast is just as good. Khalid Abdalla portrays the grown-up Amir as a quiet, contemplative soul who’s forced to confront both the phantoms of his past and, at one point, a very immediate, physical menace. But most memorable is Homayon Ershadi as Amir’s ‘Baba’, or father, an outspoken and (at times) ill-advisedly honourable fellow, who will sound off about the Mullahs being “bearded idiots” at one point, and at another toast a Cold War-era American bar with a hearty shout of, “Fuck the Russia!”

An engaging melodrama whose less convincing plot points are superseded by some astonishingly affecting performances from the mostly unknown cast.

Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Kite Runner
Empire Star Rating

I thought it was a greatly moving film. But how on earth is it only a 12A? I thought it would be AT LEAST a 15. If I watched this with my 12 year old brother he would be horrified, theres a child rape and a stoneing, come on I know that cinema certificates are abit loose now adays but come on. Very good film though. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mollymoosh at 19:49, 09 January 2011 | Report This Post

RE: The Kite Runner.

I'd give this 5 stars. I thought it was really beautiful, thoroughly moving without being sentimental and the performances were uniformly top notch. I'd agree that there are a couple of slightly far fetched coincidences but hey it's a story and ultimately they do up the tension stakes considerably. Overall - a wonderful movie ... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 15:48, 16 February 2009 | Report This Post

The Kite Runner.

Magnificent and masterful. Great Movie. ... More

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Posted by nc_jj at 05:06, 23 March 2008 | Report This Post

Empire - Why not 5 stars!!

This film leaves you breathless! I found myself thinking about this film long after leaving the cinema. I have read the book and was worried when i heard they were making it into a film as i wasn't sure how they would be able to portray such a beautiful story, but the film stays very true to the book and is stunning. All the performances are incredible and i would recommend this to anyone, even if you have read it or not. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dja_list at 20:58, 23 February 2008 | Report This Post

RE: The Kite Runner

i watched this today - but i read the book first. it was a good film, especially the 'young Amir and Hassan' scenes. book is way better - even though everything is abit coincidental. book captured more emotion than the film, but the film was still very emotive. ... More

Posted by Sumintelligentguy at 17:21, 26 January 2008 | Report This Post

RE: The Kite Runner

Saw this one last night at the cinema: On forehand my expectations weren`t so high but it turned out different. I thought it was a beautiful, heartfelt and really well acted movie. Especially the little kid who plays Hassan was superb. There are some heavy scenes in it and some emotional ones. The art direction and the music are great as well. So you see that you don`t have to think too much of a trailer. /b] ... More

Posted by TheGodfather at 21:40, 23 January 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Trust me you want to read the book rather than see the film.

I echo the sentiments of the last poster - PLEASE read the book before seeing the film. I cannot imagine that the book will have anywhere near the same effect if you have seen the film. It has to be one of the best books I have read in a long time, but emotionally exhausting to read.   I think any fans of the book are going to be disappointed by this film. Those who have not read the book all seem to say it is a solid film but anyone who has read the book knows it could have been so mu... More

Posted by simassey at 21:48, 19 January 2008 | Report This Post

Trust me you want to read the book rather than see the film.

I thought this was a heart-breakingly disappointing adaptation of The Kite Runner - aside from the performances of the two boys playing Amir and Hassan which are incredible. I don't think it was entirely director Marc Forster's fault - more David Benioff's script. Sure, Hosseini's astounding debut novel is one with so many emotional layers, memorable sequences and narrative-enhancing sub-plots it was always going to be a difficult task to deliver everything the story offered, but Benioff's de... More

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Posted by Steviej40 at 17:59, 19 January 2008 | Report This Post

bland in parts, amazing in others. it'd get four stars if only the main character wasn't so dilikable. ... More

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Posted by shawshank prisoner at 23:44, 07 January 2008 | Report This Post

kite runner

The Kite Runner is a superb film - with an enriching and sentimental journey into complex relationships , the wondrous kite scenes . Top marksshould be awarded for the acting , everyone, turns in subtle, deft and believable performances. ... More

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Posted by moviemaniac2 at 16:42, 05 January 2008 | Report This Post


I have never read the book so cannot judge whether or not this is a good adaptation.  What I did find is that I was totally absorbed for the whole running time, and that's not what I had expected.  Some of the finest writing and acting in years make The Kite Runner a moving and uplifting experience.  The number of times that I had to hold back tears meant that I was quite glad that the story didn't take the predictable route I was expecting after the first act.  If they had ... More

Posted by Gazdance at 10:41, 04 January 2008 | Report This Post

I've never read the book, so can't fairly comment about the films portrayal of the story. Yet the film itself was beautifully moving & yet painful at the same time. The cast where superb, in particular the young Hassan & Amir who's friendship will pull at your heart strings. The film had the right amount of drama & action thrown in to keep the story afloat. & the kite scenes may induce vertigo =) One other note, it's best to wear waterproof mascara. I cried more here than at A... More

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Posted by Kittys_Gremlin at 10:05, 20 December 2007 | Report This Post

I had never seen a Marc Foster film, so I had no idea what he was going to make of the book, but I thought he did just about as much justice as possible to the book without making it too much of anyway. I really really enjoyed this, though I thought it lacked a bit on the emotional side comapared with the book, but thats possibly because I alredy knew the story. I thought the children were brilliant actors, especially Hassan. I also thought in a strange way, young Amir and older Amir looked simi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by maahinkeelhaulisaiah at 15:25, 19 December 2007 | Report This Post

Solid (if heavy-handed, melodramatic, and clearly Oscar-baiting) filmmaking. Not quite one of the best films of the year, but worthwhile nonetheless. ... More

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Posted by helios at 00:13, 17 December 2007 | Report This Post

I actually thought this one of the best films of the year so far. Hosseini's book is quite rightly seen as one of the finest debut novels of the last decade, and anyone trying to bring it to the big screen certainly has their work cut out in portraying his story properly without succumbing to the usual problems of time constraints and interfering studios who merely want it to get bums on seats. As such I thought that Forster did a commendable job. Yes, the film lacks the depth and characterisati... More

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Posted by justinwc at 20:08, 08 December 2007 | Report This Post

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