Both East and West have nothing in common when it comes to knowledge. The first tends to see knowledge as the source of wisdom, while the latter perceives knowledge as the source of power. Will it be a problem in daily life? It can be. On personal level, I mean. But, on the broader sense, such opposite beliefs work hand-in-hand, filling in the void spaces created by the values themselves, in order to gain the intended results. And, this is the moral of latest Zhang Yimou’s movie entitled The Great Wall.
The movie is started by a scene in which a group of Western men and an Arabic is chased by Khitan bandits. Their journey to find black powder brings them closer to the Great Wall of China during the era Renzong Emperor of Song Dynasty. However, only two guys manage to escape from brutal killings done by unknown creatures. William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal), both are fortune seekers who want nothing but black powder. They dream about wealth derived from the commodity when they sell it to European market. It is William who cut the creature’s hand by single swing of sword; something that’s proven to be valuable in improving his bargaining position after being captured by soldiers of Nameless Order on the next day.
The order is a secret one whose duty is to prevent beast that periodically – every 60 years, precisely. For centuries, the great empire seeks solution to the threatening Tao Tei, the calling for the beast. The fact that William has successfully cut the hand makes General Shao (Zhang Hanyu), Strategist Wang (Andy Lau) and all high-rank military officers. Not long after their arrival at the Great Wall, the Nameless Order is under attack. Thousands of Tao Tei approach the wall and launch brutal strike towards the troops. At the same time, the fortune seekers, who are being detained, gain help from Peng Yong (Lu Han), a Chinese soldier. Hundreds of soldiers die. Thanks to William and Tavor, the monster has successfully being repelled. It is Strategist Wang that tells William and Tavor about the story behind Tao Tei. William’s courage makes him closer to Commander Lin (Jing Tian) who later introduces him to the only Western guy he saw during the fierce battle with those monsters: Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe). Ballard has the same purpose like William and Tavor when he was captured 25 years ago. And, it is he who taught Commander Lin Latin and English.
To their surprise, two Tao Teis climb the wall on the night and kill General Shao. Fortunately, one beast is captured. Strategist Wang discovers that it is magnet that made William’s cutting the hand of Tao Tei possible. The captured Tao Tei is then brought to the capital for further study and presented to the Emperor. To their horror, such initiative creates more killing and brutal murder due to the ignorance of Imperial Court officials in handling the beast. William, Strategist Wang, and Commander Lin have no other option but leaving for the capital to save the Kingdom from total perish.
The Great Wall brings audience to the other side of Matt Damon. So far, people recognize him having specialty in espionage movie, while the role of William commonly starred by actor like Gerard Butler. Still, he shows his physical ability and agility when playing with Chinese actors and actresses with superb martial arts skill. The Great Wall shows that having different point of view doesn’t mean further problems. The practical thinking possessed by William and Tovar seems to provide solution to the same problem the Nameless Order deals for centuries. While, the concept of xi ren Commander Lin taught brings William to the different realm of life; making him aware of another side of life he has never known and discovered. It is true that interacting with people of different point of views might be improving one’s perception towards his own life. It doesn’t work on everybody, since awareness and consciousness will find those who seek both faculty.