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The Kite Runner

Year: 2007
Studio: Dreamworks SKG
Director: Marc Foster
Writer: David Benioff/Khaled Hosseini
Cast: Khalid Abdalla
A movie based on Khaled Hosseini's much-loved novel was inevitable, and there's barely been a more worthy issues movie this year. After alternately trampling all over and ignoring Afghanistan for the better part of 30 years, this is a chance for every westerner to feel better about their part in the country's long-lasting destruction.

It begins with a thirtysomething Afghan-American getting a phone call from an old friend back home, asking him to return for something important. Having just published his first novel, the last thing he ants is to go back to such a brutal country that's meant little but bad memories. As a boy he had a great friend he used to race kites with in the annual tournament that saw kites flying over Kabul in unalloyed joy, but his loving yet stoic father had no choice but to take him and feel into the night when the Soviets invaded in 1979.

After hiding a painful secret about his friend and his own cowardice - one that ultimately spells the end of their close bond - he has to return to the ruins of his country to claim the son his friend had and lost to the brutal system before dying himself in the ethnic cleansing by the Taliban.

It's something of a historical document, a sort of Afghanistan for Dummies as the plot shows us the history of brutality the Afghan people have endured at the hands of the Russians all the way through to the Taliban, and show us the gradual decline from a cosmopolitan West Asian country to a shattered land of rubble and fear. Being a Dreamworks film it's also got a touch of the Spielbergian, lots of loving effects-heavy shots of kids in the throes of innocence and joy that almost don't fit the subject matter.

There's a few tonal shifts - from childhood drama to the struggles of the immigrant to a desperate rescue thriller - but they hang together reasonably well and do justice to the much more expansive book.

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