This was one of those movies I'd always heard about but never actually managed to see. This is why Netflix was invented - to grant me the ability to catch up on flicks I've otherwise missed. Then I watched The Eiger Sanction and realized why I'd missed it.
I wouldn't go so far as to call it obscure but it's not on the tips of everyone's tongues when they mention classic 70's cinema. This one finds Clint Eastwood as an art professor who is a retired assassin for the US government and is pulled into "one last job" for the ripe sum of $20,000 after an American agent is killed. He's to "sanction" the assassin who did in the American agent and if he feels up to it then he'll get the chance to "sanction" a second badguy who was also involved in the hit. I started snickering right away for a number of reasons not the least of which is Eastwood's hilarious delivery of badass lines.
Eastwood is a genuinely funny man. In his heyday back in the 1970's he was the trademark for American gravitas and ball-busting, but the way he delivers venom-filled lines in either this or Dity Harry or anything else is laugh out loud funny. The Eiger Sanction is filled with gems and watching him in his prime throw out one awesome line after another is always a fun way to spend a few hours.
Unfortunately, the film was also directed by him which means it takes its time getting to where its going and once it does... not much happens. Eastwood has improved his style over the years (obviously considering his Oscar for Unforgiven) but you can tell he's still looking for his own voice in his early directorial efforts and The Eiger Sanction is no different. The crux of the movie's threat hinges on him climbing the Eiger mountain with a foreign team, one of who is the other assassin he's supposed to kill. The catch is he doesn't know which one it is and has to climb the mountain with them anyway.
That sequence winds up being the last half hour of the two-hour movie.
Up to this point, Eastwood's character is investigating who the assassin might be and training for the climb. There are a few digressions throughout and eventually he winds up on the mountain. I can respect how the real climbing was achieved, including Eastwood performing his own stunt at the end where he has to cut his own rope while dangling over a 1,000-ft drop, but the movie itself barely gets off the ground, so to speak. It just sort of ambles along and then everything is over and the credits roll.
Overall, it's more a look back at a film in the 1970s than it is a look back at a great film from a defining decade of American cinema. Also, the obsession back then with using natural lighting to make everything look "real" and "authentic" looks really awful with a weak transfer. When Eastwood, or anyone in the film, walks through a dark room the entire screen goes black until someone opens a door or window. That may have been the intended effect back in the day but it looks awful now.