Kites fly high over San Francisco Bay and Kabul, but not much else soars in Marc Forster's flaccid adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's vivid 2002 novel, which covers three decades of Afghanistan's misery under serial totalitarian rule. The novel spins a potboiling tale of betrayal, cowardice, and making amends, but Forster, armed with a capably hands-off screenplay by David Benioff, has made a drama as bland and beige as its tasteful palette. Paced as it is, the movie wouldn't look out of place in the Sunday-night slot on PBS. Amir, an expatriate Afghani writer with a dark secret, is played with dour lack of expression by Egyptian-born actor Khalid Abdalla, and the movie wakes only slightly on its trips back to Kabul, where the close friendship between two motherless boys withers on the vine because of jealousy, a dark secret, and a predatory act of child exploitation. You can't fault Forster's efforts to honor his subject the Kabul dialogue is in Dari, and the boys, played by kids found in the city, make a soulfully appealing pair. But the care he has taken to respect local culture drains the novel's propulsive momentum, even during the final act, when Amir returns to Kabul to atone for his sins and gets beaten within an inch of his life.
Marc ForsterShaun Toub, Khalid Abdalla, Nasser Memarzia, Said Taghmaoui, Atossa Leoni, Laurie Burke, Susan Zangl, Henri Ramsey, Marcus Spencer, Jeff RedlickDavid Benioff, Khaled HosseiniPippa Harris, William Horberg, Rebecca YeldhamParamount Vantage