Robin Givhan in The Washington Post:
It’s impossible not to be charmed by the two boys who star in the film, which opened Friday and is based on the best-selling book about friendship, betrayal and guilt. Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada and Zekeria Ebrahimi have faces far more expressive and eloquent than any of the dialogue they recite. In particular, Ahmad Khan, who plays Hassan, has a face of such exquisite soulfulness that it’s almost too much to bear. It takes approximately five seconds to fall in love with him.
Because the boys’ story is set in Afghanistan in the 1970s, both speak entirely in Dari. There are English subtitles, but the young actors’ facial expressions are especially important in the telling of their story. English-speaking audiences don’t have the benefit of subtle vocal intonations to help them connect with the characters. But they do have American popular culture. It’s there from the moment Zekeria, who plays the privileged young Amir, appears on-screen. He’s wearing a striped sweater and ski vest and looks as though he has stepped from the pages of any class photo from middle America. The boys are obsessed with “The Magnificent Seven” and its stars, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson. They’ve seen the movie so many times that they can quote dialogue. And the streets of their home town are filled with Western tourists; bohemians and hippies wander through the market. There’s nothing terribly obvious or heavy-handed in the way American popular culture is portrayed. It’s simply an undeniable part of their daily life.