Friday, February 3, 2012

The Eiger Sanction (1975)


          The mountain-climbing flick The Eiger Sanction is one of the silliest action movies Clint Eastwood ever made. Working outside his comfort zones of cowboy melodramas and urban crime thrillers, Eastwood plays a college professor (!) who moonlights as a hit man (!!) and must employ his mountain-climbing skills (!!!) to smoke out the identity of an elusive murderer (@#*#!!!!). Based on a novel by one-named ’70s escapist-fiction phenom Trevanian, The Eiger Sanction features a plot so contrived it would give Alistair MacLean pause. Every single element of the film, from the ridiculous lengths government agents take to whack one inconsequential killer to the presence of an albino control freak running a vicious black-ops organization, stretches credibility way beyond the breaking point.
          The Eiger Sanction is also one of those movies in which so much time is spent preparing for the big event (in this case, a treacherous climb up a sheer mountain face) that the purpose of the mission gets hopelessly obscured. If several mountain climbers are suspects, for instance, why not simply capture and interrogate all of them instead of wasting so much time? Furthermore, the idea that reluctant hired gun Dr. Jonathan Hemlock (Eastwood) is the only man for the job is laughable: He’s expensive, famous (and therefore ill-suited to undercover work), insubordinate, and unpredictable, yet somehow hiring him is deemed pragmatic. Still, movies like The Eiger Sanction ask viewers to turn off their brains in order to groove on visceral thrills, and with Eastwood pulling double-duty as director and star, thrills are never in short supply.
          Eastwood stages exciting chase scenes in European cities, enjoyable training montages in which his character is coaxed and teased by a shapely coach (Brenda Venus), and, of course, death-defying climbing scenes set on the rocky surfaces of snowy mountains. Eastwood’s efforts to conjure crowd-pleasing nonsense are aided by the work of composer John Williams, who contributes rousing adventure music, and by the enthusiastic performances of supporting players Jack Cassidy (as a queeny international operative), Thayer David (as the aforementioned albino), George Kennedy (as Eastwood’s friend/trainer), and Vonetta McGee (as Eastwood’s duplicitous love interest). So, even though The Eiger Sanction is preposterously overlong at 123 minutes, and for that matter simply preposterous, at least it’s energetic and good-looking.

The Eiger Sanction: FUNKY

3 comments:

Tommy Ross said...

Always been one of my favorite Clint's....the locations are awesome, George Kennedy and Jack Cassidy are great too.

raferjanders said...

Though I agree with your review, I still enjoy the film in all its absurdity. The dialogue sparkles, and you can't fault those climbing scenes. By the way, Clint's character is called Hemlock.

Bonnie Kidd said...

I've seen the film several times and I always enjoy it. The locations and the climbing scenes are very good and the absurdity of the film is part of its charm--it's a little campy, making fun of the action genre, while telling an engrossing story. Eastwood made a film for audiences, not for jaded critics, and audiences liked it.