The Eiger Sanction (1975)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 3/7/21
Director: Clint Eastwood
Music: John Williams
Cast: Clint Eastwood, George Kennedy, Vonetta McGee, Brenda Venus

"I don't dislike you. I just think you're stupid."

Jonathan Hemlock (Clint Eastwood) is an art professor, an art collector, and a retired assassin. His former employer blackmails him into taking on two more hits that relate to the death of an old friend, and require him to get back into shape for a dangerous climb up Mt. Eiger in Switzerland. The identity of Hemlock's target is unknown, but it's one of the members of the climbing expedition. He meets up with his old climbing pal Ben (George Kennedy) in Arizona and runs into an old enemy who claims to know who Hemlock's target is, and that's when things start getting messy. Once he finally arrives in Switzerland, the perilous climb dominates the rest of the film as Hemlock tries to figure out who the other assassin is.

The film is definitely a product of the times, with its Cold War paranoia, racism, sexism, chauvinism, homophobia, excessive misogyny, and general nastiness. It's a vanity project for Clint Eastwood and his ego, and Hemlock is a toxic asshole who is seemingly irresistible to the ladies. He's not pleasant at all, but you can't deny his skill. Beautiful Vonetta McGee provides some nice eye candy as a fellow agent, and George Kennedy is great as Hemlock's sympathetic friend. The dialog is hilariously awful and often times completely deplorable, but the real star of the show is the climbing footage and amazing cinematography. The location footage of Eiger, Zion, and Monument Valley is breathtaking, and the adrenaline-pumping climbing footage is terrifying to watch. Eastwood appears to do a lot of his own climbing stunts, which is extremely impressive. His snarling delivery is a bit flat, but he backs that up with raw testosterone and muscle. John Williams provides a delightful score that helps maintain the tense and serious atmosphere, which the comical dialog is constantly trying to undermine.