widescreen – Skirting the danger zone

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During an extended flashback sequence in Kite Runner, the protagonist, young Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi), and his best friend, Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada), stand in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan participating in a prized kite fighting contest. The two feverishly work together to use their own kites tether to snap the strings of the other boys kites.

It is a rousing moment, filled with drama and emotion as Amir tries to prove himself to his father. And yet, as the brightly colored kites snap-roll and dive against the backdrop of a sunny blue sky, I could not help but think how cool it would be if someone spliced in Mavericks dialog and F-14 fighter jet noises from Top Gun.

Not that Runner, which is based on Khaled Hosseinis best-selling book, is a bad story.

We are first introduced to Amir (Khalid Abdalla) late in his life, when he is a married novelist living in San Francisco. Amir receives a phone call from an old family friend in Pakistan and is besieged by the memories of his youth in Kabul.
But, not every memory is sweet, as the young Amir ends up witnessing a brutal act. Fear and shame paralyze Amir from doing anything to stop it, and guilt leads to reprehensible behavior, the result of which haunts him into his adult life.

Director Marc Forster does a beautiful job of bringing this coming-of-age/redemption drama to the screen. The tone is solemn and thoughtful, the cinematography breathtaking and insightful. Themes of honor, character and innocence resonate across every frame.

But like an expertly manipulated digital image, none of this beauty ever helps Kite Runner feel alive.

Although well told, the story is completely perfunctory. The by-the-numbers plot telegraphs itself several times over from the moment Amirs father plaintively proclaims his boy weak of spirit.

Abdallas adult Amir is lethargic and hollow, a reluctant protagonist acting more from guilt than redeemed personal character. Even though the story involves horrible elements, Amir along with the pre-ordained plot remains free from suspense since there is never any doubt as to how this timeless story will end.

Not even an amazing performance from Homayoun Ershadi, who magnificently portrays Amirs father, is able to infuse life into the film; which probably explains why my mind tried to do so itself, by supplying my own soundtrack to a danger zone that Kite Runner would never otherwise approach.

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