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As a die-hard Clint Eastwood fan you've probably seen this
spy/action/thriller already, but for those who only now discover the work
this great director/actor, check it out - it's well worth
This film was made in the mid-seventies and it shows in every frame. The decidedly non-political correctness in the scenes with the obviously gay guy, portrayed by Jack Cassidy (whose lapdog is appropriately named "faggot" and has a hilarious scene humping Eastwood's leg); with the Indian girl (Eastwoods laconic snarl "Screw Marlon Brando" is unforgettable); with the "black chick" (says Eastwood to the Afro-American actress Vonetta McGee) might turn off some of today's viewers or bring the film on the map for viewers who have grown up with Rap Music and consider the occasional four-letter word in "8 Mile" already daring.
The story itself is not really important (a classic spy/action thriller with a twist) but the camera direction is superb and Eastwood's well-known love for Jazz music seaps through occasionally. Today's movies are called movies for a reason - they are no longer "films" (like this one), where time is taken to tell a story and explore it in its own leisure fashion.
This movie is highly unusual and possibly even unique in Clint
Eastwood's career, either as actor or director.
In "The Eiger Sanction" he plays Dr. Jonathan Hemlock, a character completely unlike any other he has played. Dr. Hemlock is, in fact, the very antithesis of the typical Eastwood character.
Although he hides a secret past, Hemlock displays a highly cultured knowledge of fine art and jazz in both his professional and personal life. He possesses as highly refined a taste for beautiful women as he does for the most beautiful works of art.
Eastwood is both a philosopher and a lover in this film. He is also a humorist. But there are no glib one-liners here. In fact, this one film probably contains more dialogue for Eastwood than he has done for any other character he has played in his career.
Eastwood is the quintessential strong, silent type. As anyone knows who has seen him as a gunfighter hero, whether in the Old West or in the big city. In "The Eiger Sanction," he is a different kind of gun- fighter. His character is not drawn on the swift, total retribution exacted by the Man with No Name. Instead, it is drawn on the suave, debonair charm of James Bond. Jonathan Hemlock possesses the same cultural refinement and cosmopolitanism that the Bond character does. In fact, Hemlock and Bond are at work and at home in the same element: international espionage.
I suspect this is why the casual fan of Clint Eastwood typically detests this movie. Clint Eastwood appears to be miscast. But I'd say he pulls it off admirably, showing the viewer a side of himself which is rarely seen and exhibiting his versatility as an actor.
The story itself is better than average and the movie rates two and one half stars.
Shot on location in the Alps and Zion National Park, the cinematography is
first class. This is great large-screen fare.
While not without their hokey apects, the many climbing scenes and story are much more realistic than those of "K2", "Clifhanger", or God-help-us "Vertical Limit".
The spy part of the story certainly has some plot holes, and I purchased a copy of "The Eiger Sanction" by Trevanian just to get some of them straightened out, and got quite a surprise. The movie is much, much more faithful to the original book than the vast majority of Hollywood adaptations. Those holes in the story - well, they're right there in the book, too. Practically the only significant differences between the two are the relationship between Johathon and Wormwood, the final status of Johnathon and Jemima's relationship, and the fact that C2 is - in the novel - so totally inept as an intelligence organization as to be completely unbeliveable, this is somewhat glossed over in the movie. Frankly the differences in all three situations are argueably done better in the movie.
I love this movie, Like Play Misty For Me this is a different kind of Clint Eastwood movie which is not a western or a cop movie. This is an espionage thriller with a surprise ending. He plays an assassin who comes out of retirement to avenge the death of his friend. In order to catch the unidentified killer he must participate in a mountain climbing expedition which the killer is also participating. Clint really took a big chance while making this movie. He did all the dangerous mountain climbing stunts. If I was directing and starring in a movie I wouldn't do a stunt that is dangerous. I urge Clint Eastwood fans to watch this movie, they won't be disappointed.
Clint Eastwood stars as a former government assassin turned art teacher
who is blackmailed into coming out of his retirement to pull off a
difficult last job. A former colleague has been murdered. Eastwood will
climb the Eiger face and kill the assassin along the way. The only
problem is he isn't sure which of the three other climbers is his
'The Eiger Sanction' is very much a product of the 1970's, and comes from a difficult grey area of Eastwood's career. He was transitioning between Westerns and Dirty Harry and films like 'The Eiger Sanction' got lost in the mix. On the surface the film is a spy thriller, or a gorgeously shot mountain climbing/survival film. I think it doesn't get enough credit for being very tongue in cheek. It gently pokes fun at both Eastwood and 70's action movies -- Clint giving a female student a playful pat on the rump, the foxy brown flight attendant/girlfriend, and of course "damn that Brando" when Clint's Native American trainer pushes him too hard. Throw in the promiscuity and the way homosexuality is dealt with (rival gay hit-man with the little dog) and the film runs pretty nicely as a satire.
'The Eiger Sanction' is really about the third act though where the climbing takes place. Brilliantly photographed, I didn't find much not to enjoy about this film. Quite possibly the best climbing film that I've ever seen and it is certainly superior to things like 'Cliff Hanger' or 'Vertical Limit' -- which owe a great deal to 'The Eiger Sanction.' Clint Eastwood has acted in better movies and he's directed better movies. That said, this one is an unpolished gem and worth taking a look at if the opportunity arises.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was anxious to see if Clint Eastwood's The Eiger Sanction was as bad
as I had always read, whether it was one long bore which worked well as
a sedative. I was surprised at how entertained I was despite the fact
that it was all means to an end. The spy story itself wasn't exactly
mindblowing or extraordinary, but the exhilarating mountain climbing
finale (..and the training portion as Eastwood's agent prepares for the
big climb up the Eiger), to me, was well worth sitting through the
weaker aspects of the film.
The movie is really a tale of three halves. The opening sets up why Eastwood's art professor, whose past life was that of a hired assassin, will be scaling a massive mountain he has failed to climb twice previous, the middle shows his Dr. Jonathan Hemlock training under old pal Ben Bowman(George Kennedy, a delight and wonderful support to the film, I thought)getting ready for his date with destiny, and the final thirty minutes moving up, and down, the Eiger, with three other professional climbers.
I think the viewer can look at the film in two ways. As a spy movie, it just doesn't cut the mustard(..although, I must admit that I found the twist amusing, regarding the revelation of the identity behind who might've been responsible for the death of Hemlock's former associate, an act of betrayal to our country, helping hand over germ warfare microfilm "to the other side")for Eastwood is realistic holding a magnum as a San Fran detective or a pistol as a gunslinger staring down opposition, but he's not James Bond..the deliberate, leisure pace defies the rapid pace that the James Bond movies are known for. I think that's why the story plays second fiddle to the action sequences which are far more exciting and awe-inspiring. The camera-work / cinematography is first-rate, exceptional in particular once Eastwood is climbing up mountains, whether in breathtaking Arizona or Switzerland locations.
I think if you look at it as an adventure, one will probably consider it one of the greatest mountain climbing movies of all time, the precursor to Renny Harlin's Cliffhanger and Martin Campbell's Vertical Limit. Eastwood's insistence on doing his own stunts enhances the climbing sequences, adding a realism that is to be admired.
The cast is rather fascinating. Eastwood doesn't really stretch his acting muscles, but Kennedy is quite engaging as his buddy, while Jack Cassidy steals the film as the flamboyant homosexual Benedit Arnold traitor who Hemlock plans to kill when the time is right. Gregory Walcott is Eastwood's foil, as agent Pope, often embarrassed and humiliated by Hemlock, when he assaults him. Thayer David has a strange role as Hemlock's sickly Albino governmental charge, Dragon, blackmailing him into finding the traitorous rogue responsible for the murder of a former field colleague. Vonetta McGee is Jemima Brown, a "patriotic whore" who works for Dragon, falling in love with Hemlock in an interesting interracial love affair. I think it's all about what you enter the film expecting from it. If you looking for phenomenal mountain climbing sequences, this delivers the goods, but I suggest searching elsewhere for a strong spy story..if you want both, try For Your Eyes Only.
The incredible difficulty for shooting the scenes up the Eiger at the end shows and you can tell Eastwood took great strides getting the most out of the setting. As the four climbers make their way up, I enjoyed how the young lead climber pokes and jabs at Hemlock for his failure to successfully scale the Eiger because this ridicule will come back to haunt him when a decision to continue despite evidence of potential disaster leads to devastating consequences.
I absolutely love this movie. The only reason I cannot give it a 9 or
10 is because the premise is just a bit too unbelievable. Eastwood is a
stud for doing his own stunts. The climbing sequences had a few minor
errors, but all considered, the most accurate movie adaptation of
climbing with the possible exception of "Storm and Sorrow". I felt like
I was there with the climbers, cold and scared and forced to continue.
The dialogue on the mountain is "rock" solid.
If you're looking for a well-developed action flick with a dash of spy stuff, watch this movie. Eastwood has done so many great movies that it's hard to rank this one- it's not his best, but it is wonderful.
Let's face it, folks, either you go for Clint Eastwood's kind of almost
pure machismo (or whatever comes closest to him as a living, walking
bad-ass), or you feel unnerved or turned off or just tune in for a few
minutes here and there. I go for it, as it's one of those things that
makes Clint what he is; he's intelligent about being a star, as his
figure and persona are rarely changed much, so there's a consistency
(Jack Nicholson may be a more versatile actor, maybe even better
overall in his craft, but he'd have to go in a steel cage with Eastwood
to see who'd be the best 70s star). The Eiger Sanction isn't any great
shakes as compared to Clint at his best in the 70s- it's no High Plains
Drifter or Dirty Harry or even Play Misty for Me- but it's a helluva
lot of fun, and probably one of the better pictures done on the danger
of mountain climbing.
Is the plot generic? Yes and no. Yes because we have seen this many times, with the ex-assassin pulled in for one more job and then finding a way to secure his retirement package with the deal and with not-surprisingly exciting (or sometimes not exciting) results. And yes, we've seen stuff like the guy's "girl" who comes in and plays a role, more or less, as the voice of reason, in this case Jemimma Black (yes, the name is basically blaxsploitation in mainstream clothing). Hell, there's even the doggone twist (yes, there's a doggone here) about who the killer actually is, and it's the sort that is handled this time with some degree of interest not so much in how it's revealed but what's done with it by the actors and the outcome of the climb.
But there's a lot more wit and fun in the script than one might give Eastwood and his writers credit for. It's tailor-made for someone like Clint, who plays this 'Doctor' of assassin time turned art history like it's nothing. He probably doesn't have much difference here in term of delivery of lines or sarcasm or the knack for beating the crap of the bad dude at the nick of time than Dirty Harry. Which is just as well; we need an anchor with the plot's likely pit-falls, with co-star Kennedy the only normal one among the possibly shifty characters (save for whoever plays Dragon, which is also filmed appropriately creepy and near originally). And it's the combo of humor ("Screw Marlon Brando!") and the suspense that arrives in that final act on the Eiger that makes the picture work. It's not entirely superbly directed- you can tell Eastwood is still working his way through doing certain techniques and frankly can't film a love scene at all- but for what it's worth, it's good, under-looked stuff in the cannon, perfect for a 'sick day' viewing. 7.5/10
The fourth movie Clint Eastwood directed was called "The Eiger sanction". Man had already practiced directing with a fabulous jealousy thriller "Play Misty for me", eccentric western "High plains drifter" and "Breezy" - his first film only behind the camera. "The Eiger sanction" is definitely a fine, entertaining and effective classic, no doubt, but it has never been Clint's most memorable movies. It usually lefts unmentioned in all of the documentaries about the man and people don't usually consider it to be all that important work when it comes to his long and sensational career. I just bought the Dvd and all I can say is these facts don't make it a bad film, hell no. "The Eiger sanction" most definitely works, but I guess it especially works if you're a true Eastwood fan. I am so I guess it's hell of a lot easier to love it. "The Eiger sanction" is a little slow-paced thriller but the idea is interesting enough to make the film exciting and stylish. John Williams composed the fabulous score and Clint himself did lot of the mountain climbing stunts. It's also true that "The Eiger sanction" really has that tiny James Bond -feeling in it. All I can say is, watch the film if you get your chance to do so.
This is the silliest film with Eastwood's name on the credits, and that
includes stuff like 'Francis in the Navy' and 'Tarantula'. But at its
best, its a kind of bravura silliness. There are chunks of quotable
dialogue, vertigo inducing cinematography and the requisite smorgasbord
of villains and could-be/would-be villains. Just don't ask me if its a
spoof, because I have no idea. I'm pretty sure nobody involved with the
picture did, either.
The intermittent tone seems largely attributable to the fact that, at this point in Clint's career, the ego had landed. Thus we witness scads of nubile young lovelies attempt to lure the granite hewn stud into bed, whilst he disrobes to reveal a finely honed physique at every opportunity. The women are all sex crazed psychopaths (ain't it the truth) driven to distraction by his squinting cool and formidable musculature. Notice also the number of times both female AND male characters are required to comment admiringly on Eastwood's appearance and caress his form with their eyes. There's no distance to any of this, however. Even the pop-Nietzcheian antics of the mountain climbers are served cold. The director star never offers us the merest suggestion that he's mocking the preening machismo at any level.
All of this worship, plus the fact that the star's performance is WAY, WAY over the top - his usual 'snarling and eye-rolling alternated with boyish grin' is accentuated to parodic proportions - lends the piece a bizarrely dreamy, awkwardly sadistic homo-eroticism. If, in any other film, the hero yelled, "you're quiet now, ain't ya, ya little prick?" at a dog called 'faggot' after he'd killed it's master, I'd be on safe ground in assuming that the makers were nudging my ribs. Here, though, the surrounding unfettered narcissism and borderline unpleasantness it engenders makes it impossible to tell when the joke is for us or on us.
But its fun because of this nonsense. Even the final inconsequentiality of the whole exercise can't diminish that. It's just that this film, more than any other in his catalogue, lends extreme credence to biographer Patrick McGilligan's central assertion that, cinematically speaking at least, Clint is a lot less smart than critics allow.
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