A rancher resists the seizure of his land by the Air Force. [ Stranger on My Land credits: Dir: Larry Elikann/ Tommy Lee Jones, Dee Wallace Stone, Ben Johnson/ 94 min/ Drama/ Eminent Domain, Second Amendment]
Eminent domain—the right of government to seize private property for public use—was originally intended for emergencies but is used today for even the most routine purposes. In this film, it’s invoked to seize a private home against the will of its very reasonable occupants.
In particular, the rancher at the center of this tale is approached by the Air Force with an offer to buy his land. When he turns it down, he is told that if he doesn’t sell “voluntarily,” his land will be taken anyway but at a lower price. It isn’t clear what the Air Force wants the land for; and even when the rancher takes the Air Force to court, it won’t elaborate. In court, the Air Force just says it wants the land for “national security reasons” and wins on that basis. In the end the rancher, a former Marine, decides to follow his conscience instead of the law and forcibly resists. The confrontation embarrasses the government, and the rancher wins a new day in court, though it isn’t clear what the final resolution is going to be.
This is, of course, an optimistic read on the situation. In real life, the feds would attack with overwhelming force, and the rancher and his family would be instantly killed. After all, if there’s one job the feds are good at it’s killing. And, of course, the idea that the press or any other non-combatant would be allowed to witness the conflict is out of the question.
In any case, Stranger on My Land is a sympathetic portrayal of someone attempting to resist an unjustified expropriation of private property, and it has some Second Amendment content. The country-accented Tommy Lee Jones was a good pick for the lead, and some of the smaller parts are also well played. It’s a B picture in some respects, but it’s certainly worth watching.
“Stranger on My Land exalts some traditional right-wing values, such as property rights and the right to bear arms to defend that property. Yet it also mollifies liberals by questioning the necessity for an expanded missile base.”
–Los Angeles Times