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With: Michelle Williams, John Diehl, Shaun Toub, Wendell Pierce, Richard Edson, Burt Young, Yuri Elvin, Jeris Poindexter, Rhonda Stubbins White, Bernard White, Gloria Stuart
Written by: Wim Wenders, Scott Derrickson, Michael Meredith
Directed by: Wim Wenders
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 124
Date: 09/09/2004

Land of Plenty (2004)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Margin of Terror

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Wim Wenders' Don't Come Knocking received a San Francisco theatrical release in 2006, but his superior Land of Plenty, from a year earlier, did not. This may be because of the touchy subject matter: 9/11 as viewed through the eyes of a liberal worker at a soup kitchen and her conservative, military trained uncle. But while Don't Come Knocking had too many things to say and didn't particularly know how to say them, Land of Plenty deftly balances its viewpoints and pulls them off with a minimum of outrage or sermonizing. Lana (Michelle Williams) returns to the USA from an extended stay at the West Bank. She tracks down her only remaining family, her uncle Paul (John Diehl), who goes out prowling for terrorists in his well-equipped van. Lana descends upon his life just as he locates a potential nest of terrorists (he spots Muslims moving suspicious amounts of a cleaning product called Borax). But when a homeless Muslim man is shot to death in the street, uncle and niece take a road trip to Trona, California to return the man's body to his family and ostensibly find more clues as to the potential bomb-makers. Wenders winds the film down as each character remembers the events of 9/11 from a different point of view, and though this sequence could have been unbearable, it turns out to be heartbreaking and fascinating. Using digital video, Wenders gets up close and coaxes impressive, intimate performances from both actors. Better still, he paints decent, human portraits of both lefties and righties without resorting to popular clich�s. Forget United 93 and World Trade Center; this is the kind of film we should be making about post-9/11 America. High quality character actors like Richard Edson, Burt Young and Gloria Stuart turn up in small roles.

DVD Details: IFC has released this film on DVD with a commentary track by Wenders, who talks about his newfound love affair with digital video. The transfer, on the other hand, is good enough that it looks like film.

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