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The Kite Runner

 An exhilarating, life-affirming epic. Fans of Khaled Hosseini's bestseller 'The Kite Runner not be disappointed with this sensitive film adaptation.

The movie opens in the year 2000. when Amir (Khalid Abdalla), an Afghan writer now living in the United States, has just had his first book printed, and a shipment has arrived from the publisher. His excitement is undercut by a call from his father's old friend, Rahmin Khan (Shaun Toub), entreating him to visit him in Afghanistan.

Amir thinks back to his childhood in 1970s Afghanistan. Now played by Zekiria Ebrahimi, young Amir lived with his father, Baba (Homayoun Ershadi), spending endless days playing with his best friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada), the small but feisty son of his father's longtime servant Ali (Nabi Tanha).

The boys spend their days watching American Westerns like 'The Magnificent Seven' at the local cinema - they know the scripts by heart - and flying their kites high above Kabul. Amir, an otherwise solitary boy who thinks his father hates him for causing the death of his mother during childbirth, is unassertive and lets the quick-witted Hassan fight his battles.

One day after Amir has a tremendous victory with his kite, Hassan runs off to retrieve it some distance away, and is set upon by some older boys. Amir witnesses the attack, but is frozen with fear and does nothing to help. Beset by so much guilt afterward, he paradoxically begins to treat Hassan with disdain, and in an act of heinous betrayal, frames him for the theft of his watch. Over Baba's protestations, Ali takes his son, and they leave for good.

The Soviets eventually invade Afghanistan, forcing Baba to flee the country with Amir. They eventually reach America where, along with the rest of the ex-pat Afghan community they have to do menial jobs to survive.

Amir grows up, graduates from university and falls in love with Soraya (Atossa Leoni), the daughter of a hard-line Afghan known as the General (Abdul Qadir Farookh).

The call from Rahmin will give Amir a chance to atone for his childhood misdeed in a way he never could have imagined, a mission that will bring him back to a greatly changed Afghanistan.

Under Marc Forster's sensitive direction, the beautifully acted film provides a rare portrait of Afghanistan before and after the Taliban.

It offers a strong affirmation of friendship and family, and a redemptive ending that should move even the most stony heart.

first posted LONDON - 3 March 2008 - 320 words