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The Kite Runner(2007)
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.
For more about The Kite Runner and the The Kite Runner Blu-ray release, see the The Kite Runner Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on March 10, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Khalid Abdalla, Homayoun Ershadi, Zekiria Ebrahimi, Shaun Toub, Saïd Taghmaoui, Nabi Tanha
Directors: Marc Forster, Rebecca Yeldham
» See full cast & crew
The Kite Runner Blu-ray Review
A story of tragedy and redemption makes its way to 1080p, contrasting the brutality of Afghanistan with California's progressive values.
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, March 10, 2009
Is any symbol more clever or original than a kite runner--a faithful friend who will rush to bring back the fruits of one's ambitions achieved high in God's domain? Few movies released over the past decade are as relevant, interesting and timely as The Kite Runner. As DreamWorks Home Entertainment prepares to distribute the newly minted Blu-ray version, the US is sending thousands more troops into Afghanistan. Yet, few in the west have the framework to understand what life is like in the war-torn country. The brilliance of Khaled Hosseini's story is that it builds this framework by showing Afghanistan through the eyes of two young boys growing up in Kabul.
A bestselling novel before being produced for film, The Kite Runner does not shy away from showing the violence, misogyny and intolerance that marks Afghani culture. But Hosseini does so with a message of redemption, humanity and brotherhood, and those themes translate well to the motion picture. Rarely can a film transport an audience to the other side of the world in a multidimensional way that contrasts the past and the future, the old world and the new and ultimately injustice with justice. But The Kite Runner succeeds on all counts. It does so with urgency and grace. Its relevance is only magnified with DreamWorks' Blu-ray release serving up solid 1080p and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 content.
After a brief introduction to a young Afghan man named Amir (Khalid Abdalla) living in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2000, The Kite Runner flashes back to Kabul before the Russians invade Afghanistan. Even then, ethnic rivalries, violence and fear are waiting around every corner. Living a sheltered existence in his well-to-do father's (Homayoun Ershadi) estate, young Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) is a dreamer and budding writer who shows more interest in his stories than in practical matters or building a reputation in the streets, like the other boys. Amir's only friend is the faithful Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada). The two are inseparable, running around the estate grounds and through the streets of Kabul (the Afghan sequences of the film were actually shot in Kashgar and Tashkurgan in the Xinjiang region of China), and watching their favorite movie, The Magnificent Seven together. Their most serious activity is flying kites and using trick aeronautics to cut the other boys' strings in the air.
When a string is cut, the kite becomes the property of the winner who severed it, and a kite runner is sent out to retrieve the spoils. Hassan is Amir's faithful kite runner. But their relationship is strained by Afghanistan's ethnic tensions and class structure. Amir and his father are Pashtun. Hassan's father is their estate servant, a Hazara or ethnic Shia descended from Mongolians and subject to descrimination. Ethnic tension in Afghanistan reached a crisis many years later in the late 1990s, when the Taliban routinely massacred Hazara. But as far as the boys in The Kite Runner are concerned, at first they don't seem particularly aware of their ethnicity and their bond is based upon friendship.
That bond nearly breaks after Hassan is attacked while running a kite back to Amir one fateful day. Hassan is brutally raped by bullies in the neighborhood. As they violate him, they tell him his faithfulness to Amir is misplaced and that he is only a servant. Amir witnesses part of the attack but never does anything to stop it or to comfort Hassan afterward. Amir's inner resentment at failing his friend is thrust outward against Hassan who shuts down to Amir on all levels except servitude. The experience creates a rift between the boys and the friendship seems to end when Hassan's father gets permission from Amir's father to leave the estate. Not long afterward, the Russian invasion prompts Amir and his father to flee war-torn Afganistan. They eventually make their way to Freemont, CA amidst a growing community of Afghan expatriates.
After graduating college, Amir meets the daughter (Atossa Leoni) of high-ranking Afghani General Taheri (Abdul Qadir Farookh) and the two are married. Nothing would make Amir happier than writing his books, but after his father dies, a voice from the past reaches out to him in dramatic fashion and he finds himself on a chilling mission to Afghanistan to save Hassan's son. The narrative is a bit contrived in terms of the mission and how it plays out, but director Marc Forster gets solid performances from all his actors. I especially appreciated the underacting of the child actors and overall message of the story, which makes this film an instant classic.
The Kite Runner Blu-ray, Video Quality
At first glance, the picture quality is excellent, featuring plenty of definition, warmth and deep blacks. It certainly makes the DVD version look horrid in comparison. But from a videophile's perspective, the Blu-ray picture is not perfect. Signs of noise reduction include flattened blacks and perhaps some grain reduction for a very polite presentation that lacks lifelike vividness. Detail and depth are held back compared to reference quality Blu-ray discs. The night scenes are the prime examples when minimal shadow detail and relatively 2-D presentation tend to get in the way. Watch the scene when Amir bids farewell to his driver. The illuminated characters seem to stand out artificially in front of a deep black backdrop with almost no grayscale gradients that cue the viewer in to depth. Granted, part of this is attributable to the way The Kite Runner is shot and produced and cannot be blamed on the transfer and processing. For the most part, skin color is spot on, clothing appears to have good texture and landscapes are detailed and bright.
There are signs of postproduction getting in the way. As beautiful and emotional as the kite-flying scenes are, with the multicolored banners wheeling, soaring, spinning and diving through the air, they have been produced over the Kabul cityscape using CGI effects. While this imagery is dazzling and brilliantly conceived, like all CGI work it looks a bit canned from a technical standpoint, flattening the picture and hindering its vibrancy just a touch. But those are nits for videophiles to pick and most viewers will marvel at the dance of the kites with the ominous Afghani mountains in the distance. Another nit to pick, though not directly related to picture quality, is the font and color of the subtitles, which appear a bit amateur. The dialog is in Dari, Urdu, Pashtu and even Russian, and the appearance of the yellow characters in the subtitles is not ideal. English is spoken in the films, but mainly just in the California sequences.
The Kite Runner Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Arguably the most enjoyable feature of The Kite Runner is its enchanting score by Alberto Iglesias, featuring arrangements by David Cerrejon, Jorge Magaz, and Jose Villalobos, vocals by Sussan Deyhim and compositions by Ahmad Zahir, Ehsan Aman, and Sami Yusaf. This music incorporates strings as well as traditional Afghan istrumentation. The sound ranges from very good to excellent. Soundstaging is tasteful and deep, anchored up front. Highs are extended and the midrange is lush and involving. The deep midbass of car engines and other effects is throaty and powerful. Well-recorded cues in the treble make these effects quite realistic with good presence overall. Voices are also engineered expertly and the characters come alive with Dolby TrueHD that accurately reproduces vocal tonal and timbral nuances.
Listen to the scene taking place in the soccer stadium near Kabul. The music of the score, crowd noises, dialog and halftime speech by a local Taliban chief (Mohamad Amin Rahimi) are solidly mixed and deliver a palpable experience, drawing in the listener--so much so that the dialog in Dari delivers good emotional cues as the cadence and tone of the actors' voices correspond with the emotions of the scene. All facets of the soundtrack are rendered well, with no wave cancellation or other engineering gaffes that can make congested areas of audio tracks sound like they are missing detail. While it doesn't rise to the level of reference quality, the audio performance of The Kite Runner is very impressive overall.
The Kite Runner Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
I was tempted to rate the supplementary material higher, but I believe DreamWorks missed an opportunity to better educate viewers about Afghanistan and the Taliban. As it is, the material is impressive--particularly the audio commentary. But all of it is ported over from the DVD version. This material includes the commentary from director Marc Forster, author Khaled Hosseini and screenwriter David Benioff. The three impart excellent technical details about the film as well as cultural details about Afghanistan and the actors.
For example, Benioff comments that one of the actors speaking in Dari is not adhering to the script and therefore the English subtitles are not the real translation. Forster explains that improvisation is common among the Afghans on the set, many of whom weren't really actors but more like extras. Hosseini then adds that none of the actors were actually flying kites. They were holding strings attached to cables in the air and the kites were generated later in post production. The commentary is fascinating throughout.
Rounding out the featurettes are the 15-minute Words from The Kite Runner about the novel and screenplay adaptation, the 25-minute Images from The Kite Runner about the film production as well as a trailer. The only thing new in any of this is the HD resolution of the trailer. The rest is exactly as it appears on the DVD version.
The Kite Runner Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
After a tough day at work, I sometimes treat myself to one of my favorite restaurants, The Afghan House, here in Silicon Valley not far from where the protagonist of The Kite Runner lives. Stepping inside the restaurant, I am transported by the smell of exotic spices and the sound of stringed instruments like the rubab over the sound system. I am greeted with warmth and politeness by the Afghan staff. My stress melts away amid hangings on the walls, woven fabrics and woodwork, photos of rugged landscapes, villagers and nomads, the famous giant Buddha carved into a mountainside. But that Buddha was destroyed by the Taliban.
Like Persepolis, The Kite Runner offers viewers a rare entrance into a very oppressive country fraught with violence, intolerance, misogyny and Sharia law. I was impressed that the filmmaker and studio did not shy away from showing the stoning in the stadium and the brutality of living under Taliban rule. And I was also struck by how the story contrasted a dark, backward place to a bright place in the technologically advanced and politically progressive Bay Area. The symbol of the kite runner--a faithful friend who will rush to bring back the fruits of one's ambitions high in God's domain--is a stunningly beautiful idea on which to hinge a story. Hosseini deserves the accolades from his best-selling novel; Forster deserves praise for ensuring the book translated well to film; and DreamWorks deserves credit for releasing The Kite Runner on Blu-ray so that all of us can enjoy this movie in high definition. Very highly recommended.
The Kite Runner: Other Editions
The Kite Runner Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Kite Runner Announced for Blu-ray - January 12, 2009
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the Oscar-nominated foreign film 'Kite Runner' to Blu-ray on March 24th. The film tells the story of two young friends on the opposite sides of bloody war. Video will be presented in 2.35:1 1080p accompanied ...
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