Eastwood: The Eiger Sanction

By the time Clint made The Eiger Sanction he had formed Malpaso, become the biggest name in Hollywood and could basically do whatever he wanted. The Eiger Sanction is a mountaineering espionage thriller than has Clint playing Dr Jonathan Hemlock who kills spies on his time away from the university. Brought out for one last job Clint must locate and terminate a double agent whilst climbing the Eiger just to add a little spice.

The first thing you have to know about The Eiger Sanction is that it’s basically a vanity project to allow Clint to show off his new climbing skills. Malpaso picked up the project from script that Paul Newman passed on and Clint went into serious training in the summer of 74 I preparation or the location shoot in Switzerland. From what I can uncover nobody thought that filming on location was a god idea given the fearsome reputation of the mountain but Clint was raring to go. Deaths and injuries piled up and at one point the project was almost abandoned. But on they went and what was produced is for hardcore Clint fans as the film itself is basically rubbish. A Box office disaster on release it’s easy to see that this was one of Eastwood’s loosest productions.

The actual espionage narrative is poor at best as the running time of almost two hours involves Clint either sitting at a bar looking at the mountain or shuffling up it. The plot twists are slow and clumsy which ultimately make the action stagnant and dull. The most ridiculous moment comes when Clint decamps to George Kennedy’s training camp which is a wired playboy mansion in the desert. His training simply involves running after an Asian girl before sleeping with her. After climbing one hard ridge in the desert heat our hero is clearly ready for the Eiger so off we go to Switzerland.

The assembled team are all Euro no-marks and the usual who’s the bad guy routine kicks in from the off. Clint looks like he‘s on holiday for the majority of the film and you can clearly see that the production was hard at best.  But as I said earlier this is for hardcore fans and I’m one so there is much joy for me in The Eiger Sanction. The entire construct of the film is ludicrous but that’s the thing I enjoy as it’s basically Clint doing whatever he wants whenever he wants. There is a degree of man love going on here as you cannot really be objective and claim that this is a good film but so what. The film has Clint climbing a mountain and given the total lack of mountain based projects in general given the harsh shooting conditions this will have to do. The Eiger sequences do at least have an edge of realism in terms of their harshness unlike fluff such as Cliffhanger. At the end of the day though a comment made at the time that the film resembled a cast off bond project is about fair on the whole.

Far from Eastwood’s finest hour this is a slice of cult heaven that should be avoided by people looking for a good solid action flick. The location work is excellent and is a mark of the time but that’s where the quality ends.  The film also has an outrageous gay character that’s enough to make anyone drop their heads in shame. The Eiger Sanction should be avoided on the whole unless you a sad Clint obsessed fan like me.

Aled Jones

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