Review: The Kite Runner (dir. Marc Forster, 2007)

kiterunnerIt’s probably safe to say you’ve never seen kite-flying scenes like the ones that form the emotional and metaphorical core of The Kite Runner. The film, based on the best-selling book by Khaled Hosseini, is partly set in Afghanistan in the 1970s, and the simple act of flying a kite comes to represent a freedom of spirit that is lost when the nation is invaded by the Soviets in 1979, and then remains lost when the nation is dominated by the extremist form of Islam that characterized the Taliban.

But the two boys at the heart of this story do not merely fly kites, they “cut” them — by chasing other kites through the air and curling around their strings until they snap. Kite-flying thus becomes a form of competition — and with the help of modern special effects, the film sometimes uses aerial shots to show how the airborne kites pursue one another, like fighter planes hot on each other’s tails.

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Review: Stay (dir. Marc Forster, 2005)

stay2005There are movies that pull the rug out from under their audiences in the very last moments, and in doing so reveal that much of what we have just seen was actually an illusion. Then there are movies that pull the rug out from under their audiences somewhere in the middle, thus giving us, and the characters, time to come to terms with what the relationship between reality and illusion depicted in these films might mean. And then there are movies that don’t have a rug in the first place. These movies let you know that their characters inhabit an unreal world, and so you patiently sit through two hours of puzzle pieces bumping up against each other and failing to fit together, and you wait for that moment at the end when the penny will drop, the pieces will fit, and illusion will give way to reality. Surprise twist endings are a dime a dozen, so these films remove the surprise.

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Review: Troy (dir. Wolfgag Petersen, 2004)

Gladiator gave us a nasty, brutish vision of the world, but it compensated somewhat with a soothing and vaguely pagan belief in the afterlife. The Passion of The Christ gave us the suffering and execution of the Jewish Messiah, but it concluded with a brief glimpse of the resurrection by which he conquered death. Now comes Troy, the biggest Greco-Roman epic of them all — so far — and its theology is of a more agnostic sort.

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