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The Fourth Protocol (1987)

John Preston is a British agent with the task of preventing the Russians detonating a nuclear explosion next to an American base in the UK. The Russians are hoping this will shatter the 'special relationship' between the two countries.



(screen story), (additional material) | 2 more credits »
1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Borisov / Pavel Petrovic
Irina Vassilievna
Brian Harcourt-Smith
Sir Bernard Hemmings
General Karpov
Sir Nigel Irvine
George Berenson
Angela Berenson
Joseph Brady ...
Betsy Brantley ...
Eileen McWhirter
Captain Lyndhurst
Tom McWhirter
Jerry Harte ...
Professor Krilov


KGB agent Major Valeri Petrofsky has been reassigned at the request of the KGB Chairman for a secret mission wherein he is sent to England to establish a residence near an American military base and receive various items from couriers from the USSR. John Preston is the top British spy catcher, currently at odds with his superior because he doesn't lick his boots. After he conducts an operation without his superior's permission caused his superior some embarrassment, he is reassigned to the menial task of overseeing airports and ports. One day one the couriers Petrofsky was expecting comes off a freighter has an accident which leaves him dead. Preston is informed by the pathologist that the man is not a seaman so Preston goes through his things and finds that he was carrying something which he is told is an atomic bomb component. Preston now suspects that someone is bringing in parts for an atomic bomb, his superior doesn't want to let Preston be proven right so he doesn't authorize ... Written by <rcs0411@yahoo.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


If the Fourth Protocol is ever breached, there would be no warning, just a nuclear explosion from a bedsitter...The unthinkable has just begun... See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

28 August 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A negyedik záradék  »

Box Office


$12,423,831 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The movie featured Matryoshka dolls which are also known as Russian nesting dolls or Russian nested dolls. These had become popularized and well-known from appearing in the opening title sequence of the earlier television spy series production of 'John Le Carre''s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979). See more »


Soviet officers have got the wrong tabs on greatcoat lapels - black with no goldish frames. They also have service caps with the wrong cap bands - made of black plastic instead of goldish cords. See more »


Wynne-Evans: It's polonium.
John Preston: What's polonium?
Wynne-Evans: Well, when combined with lithium, the two together form an "initiator." That's... a detonator for a bomb.
John Preston: A bomb?
Wynne-Evans: An atomic bomb.
See more »


Referenced in Film 2016: Episode dated 12 November 2014 (2014) See more »


We Shall Overcome
Musical and Lyrical adaptation by Zilphia Horton, Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan and Pete Seeger
Sung by the protesters at the air force base
See more »

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User Reviews

A Good Example Of The Cold War Spy Thriller
28 April 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Based on the bestselling novel by thriller writer Fredrick Forsyth, The Fourth Protocol stands out as one of the last of the breed of Cold War spy thrillers. Set amongst the issues of 1980's Cold War tensions, the film is the story of a KGB plot to detonate an atomic bomb in the UK near a US Air Force base, causing the deterioration of NATO as a result if UK security services don't stop it first. With good performances and a fine script that make up for some of the films shortcomings, The Fourth Protocol is a good example of the Cold War spy thriller.

The films has good performances throughout. The cast is led by Micahel Caine and Pierce Brosnan. Caine is British agent John Preston, a bit of a loose cannon himself, who stumbles upon the plot and has to face his superiors skepticism before he can stop the plot. Brosnan is KGB agent Valeri Petrofsky who, masquerading as James Ross, is the man with the atomic bomb. The supporting cast is like a whose who of fine character actors including Joanna Cassidy, Ned Beatty, Julian Glover, Michael Gough, Ray McAnally and Ian Richardson. Sadly the actors playing Russian characters struggle with their accents at times but for the most part the performances work and help the film rather then hinder it.

For the most part the film has good production values. The direction of John Mackenzie, coupled with the cinematography of Phil Meheux, the production design of Allan Cameron and the costumes of Tiny Nicholls mean the the film has a very realistic feel to it. For the most part the editing of Graham Walker helps as well, especially in the sequence where the bomb is assembled by the Brosnan and Cassidy characters. Unfortunately there's moments where the editing is rather hap-hazard with scenes of Petrofsky on his motorcycle, then packing his car, then on his motorcycle again. Another example is the sequences involving the McWhirter couple (played by Matt Frewer and Betsy Brantley) with Petrofsky which, while a fault of the script admittedly, should have been cut from the film as they serve no purpose and slow down the film's pace. Even with the issues with the film's editing, the production values hold up well.

The film also has a fine script as well. Frederick Forsyth adapts his own best-selling novel, with help from writers George Axelrod and Richard Burridge. The script remains fairly faithful to the original novel though there are some significant differences (such as the amount of time spent investigating soviet agent Jan Marais at the beginning for example). This helps the film plot wise as it focuses the film more on the tense build-up to the possible detonation of an atomic bomb on British soil. The film nicely contrasts the arrival of the bomb's components from Petrofsky's side with Preston's attempts to derail the plot. The script also reveals a world of crosses, double-crosses and triple-crosses as the plot keeps getting more and more complicated as it goes on. The result is a well-written thriller.

With good performances, good production values and a well-written script from noted thriller Fredrick Forsyth, The Fourth Protocol is a good example of the Cold War spy thriller. Even with editing issues, the film is a well-paced and tense story of Cold War intrigue and a story of how things might have bee. Even more surprising is that despite its being entrenched in 1980's Cold War politics the films dealing with the on-going threat of nuclear terrorism means it has relevance over two decades later. Thus the film remains a tense, if somewhat dated, thriller.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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