Any September 11 movie is a risky undertaking, capable of joining a growing subgenre that oversimplifies hard political questions and complicated emotional responses. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Wim Wenders's one-dimensional Land of Plenty.
Lana (Williams), a wide-eyed altruist, begins work at a Los Angeles soup kitchen after several years in Africa and Israel. While she serves Christian compassion, her estranged uncle, Paul (Diehl), a paranoid Vietnam vet, patrols the streets of L.A., hunting terrorists in a van rigged up with surveillance equipment that would be envied by the Department of Homeland Security. A clunky deus ex machina, the drive-by death of a homeless Pakistani man, brings the do-gooder and the vengeful nut together, and they embark on an over-wrought journey of understanding that culminates in a wistful moment at Ground Zero.
"Let's just try and listen," Lana says to Paul as they overlook the rebuilding of the WTC site. If only Wenders, who coscripted with Michael Meredith, were capable of displaying a fine-tuned ear. Instead, the dialogue is often ludicrous: "This is my country. These colors don't run," Paul booms in voiceover at the film's opening. The German Wenders's loving fascination with America, evident from Paris, Texas to the upcoming Don't Come Knocking, is displayed here as a kind of cultural tone-deafness, where U.S. citizens are divided neatly into either saintly empathizers or unhinged haters.—Melissa Anderson