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.
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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
Doubling for the Soviet Union (Russia), was the country of Finland. The production shoot there ran for just one week. See more »
The van's blue number plate gets smashed when trying to escape the traffic jam, yet is intact later. See more »
[Harcourt-Smith was embarassed by Preston's unauthorized, though successful previous mission]
Just what the hell do you think you're playing at? First, you have the unmitigated gall to proceed without my permission. Next, you deliberately embarrass the service in front of that shit Irvine! Of course, I'm well aware that you somehow consider yourself outside the normal chain of command. But may I remind you that this is a Service, not a free-for-all! And when you're done showing off, you come ...
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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
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.
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