'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini was of the finest books I'd read in the last 10 years or so. Hence, it was also one of the film adaptations I was eager to check out. It's been in my Netflix queue for a while now, but when I found a copy in the public library, I couldn't resist. After watching it twice, I can't help but conclude that its a pretty good adaptation, although it still is several notches below the extremely poignant novel.
'The Kite Runner' is primarily the tale of two friends from Afghanistan, Amir and Hassan, told through the eyes of Amir. In the story spanning about 20 years, one sees how the Afghanis have had to suffer, and how the country is faced with one difficulty after another. The narrative does not hold back on its criticism of the Taliban regime either, and is brutal in its indictment of the cruel, inhuman 'beard regime'. However, all this is in the background, and rightfully so; this is basically Amir's story, and how he succeeds in redeeming himself - in his own eyes, in the eyes of his beloved Baba, and most importantly, in the eyes of the best friend he has ever had.
I will not attempt to write down the story here, because (a) there is no way I can even try to summarize such a beautiful book in a paragraph or two; it would be a complete degradation of the book, and (b) for those who haven't read the book, but will see the movie, it would destroy a large segment of the movie for you. Rest assured though, that despite all the suffering the protagonists undergo, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Homayoun Ershadi as Baba towers over the cast. He was exactly like how I had imagined him from the book - proud, sophisticated and wry. His intolerance toward the wrath-espousing mullahs, his bouts of temper, and his fragility once he becomes old and ill are all brilliantly brought out by the actor, but with subtly. Its easily a role that could have been enacted like poor Bachchan did in 'Khudah Gawah', high-handed, loud and overblown, but kudos to Ershadi in portraying the proud Baba in his own style. Its a remarkable performance, and worthy of quite a few awards this year.
The child actor who plays Hassan turns in a remarkable performance too. Every slight by Aamir is reflected in his crestfallen eyes, never more than in the scene where he crushes a ripe tomato on his own face, still refusing to turn upon his friend. Its perhaps unfair to judge him against the book, but once you do, despite some great acting, he falls short.
Everybody else is competent enough, and no actor is visbly bad. However, several scenes like the redemption of Amir, the return of Assef, and Sohrab saving Amir don't have the necessary impact, and this is clearly the director's fault. Perhaps a story like this needs a wee bit of melodrama - everything seemed a little too flat here. But in the director's defense, he does make several scenes like the kite-flying competition, and the stoning to death extremely well. He really does do a commendable job of converting a modern classic to celluloid; but as an avid fan of the novel, I can't but help nitpicking.
All in all, a half-decent movie, but not as good as the book.