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Fish out of water

Films about being strangers in a land far from home

Films through the years have depicted outsiders who have to assert themselves in a strange environment. Their appeal often stems from the clash of different behaviors, languages and attitudes. In The Last Samurai, traumatized US soldier Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) travels to feudal Japan. It is the 1870s and the warrior aristocracy of the samurai is losing its centuriesold power. Algren is paid to help the emperor deal them the deathblow. He learns to appreciate how the samurai value honor above life. Nominated for four Oscars, this action drama is rich in elaborate battles scenes.

In The Great Wall, East Asia is also the destination of Western mercenary William (Matt Damon), who is looking for gunpowder in 11th-century China. Before he knows, he’s fighting with Chinese armies against voracious monsters, who are attacking the Great Wall. And he is astonished by the self-sacrifice and discipline of the warriors from the Middle Kingdom. With its visually stunning fantasy action, this movie tops the list of the most expensive ever made in China.

Even more extravagant is action adventure The 13th Warrior. An Arab intellectual (Antonio Banderas) meets loutish Vikings in Eastern Europe. The poet quickly learns their language and soon swings a sword against demonic cannibals. The Norsemen can’t believe their eyes.

The Last Samurai, The Great Wall, The 13th Warrior