25 September 2023

The Eiger Sanction

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Director: Clint Eastwood, Via Vision Entertainment.

Cast: Clint Eastwood, George Kennedy, Vonetta McGee, Jack Cassidy.

The sheer wonder created by the film’s backdrop is enough to overlook the credibility of the storyline. Eastwood stars and directs this spectacular thriller set in the Swiss Alps.

He plays the role of Jonathan Hemlock, who now devotes his time to teaching and collecting paintings. It doesn’t take us long to work out that there’s more to Jonathan than meets the eye. He’s a retired professional assassin, art history professor and a mountaineer who has adapted a calmer lifestyle with a pursuit of art.

To finance his collection, Hemlock works as a so-called ‘counter-assassin’ for a secret US government agency, the CII. He served in a Special Forces team of the Army Intelligence Branch and fought in the Korean War.

His special attributes are more than just being an amiable professor working at an arts college. Indicative of his capabilities is his collection of 21 stolen art masterpieces. This haul was courtesy of his deceiving endeavours.

When a close friend is murdered, Hemlock is suddenly forced out of retirement to hunt the deadly double agent that killed his comrade. Hemlock is blackmailed into returning to his deadly profession and do one more ‘sanction’, a euphemism for killing.

His quiet life is interrupted. Hemlock has to join a crew of explorers (Kennedy, Cassidy) on a trip up the Eiger, a treacherous Swiss mountain. Hemlock must simultaneously determine which of his fellow climbers is a Soviet spy, kill his target and scale the deadly peak.

The 1975 thriller, based on the 1972 novel The Eiger Sanction by Trevanian, the pen name of Rodney William Whitaker, takes us to join an international climbing team in Switzerland. The plan is to climb the Eiger north face in order to complete a second sanction to avenge the murder of an old friend.

Histrionic it may be, but it’s never tedious.

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