Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Eiger Sanction


It’s fun to read a book and then see the movie a day later. Even if you’ve done both before. But it’s been 30 years in this case, so it’s all new to me!

This was Clint Eastwood’s 4th directorial outing, and shows what he demonstrated in Mystic River, that he is very dedicated to the books he buys. Small changes were made, but only one seemed to make no sense. The book itself is fabulously over the top, never meant to be believed, and works mainly because it is so outrageous, bitingly satiric, and sheer fun. The movie captures as much of that as it can, and uses a great deal of dialogue straight from the book. But when the book gets into the mountain, the fearsome Eiger, it is dead serious, and wonderfully vivid. Eastwood worked very, very hard to match this and gets some stunning shots, mainly by doing his own pretty perilous stunts (a stunt climber was killed by a falling boulder, in a spot where Clint had been standing only minutes before). This was before you could cheat with CGI to attain vertiginous perspectives easily and without risk, and as such, the movie is probably the best fiction ever made about mountain climbing. But the technology of the time was not good enough to reproduce the awesome power of the storm on the mountain—hanging your ass out there was dangerous enough without wind and fog machines and freezing sleet—and time constraints meant that you couldn’t really convey the long, wearisome, and ultimately soul-killing slowness and fatigue that are shown so powerfully in the book. Still, it’s a fun movie to watch, and a terrific effort.