The Fourth Protocol (1987)

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MI5 man John Preston, whist examining a suspect package that he had prevented from being smuggled into the country, finds an item that he is informed is only used for assembling a nuclear bomb. Preston has found that someone is attempting to break the Non-Proliferation Treaty's fourth protocol, and when his superiors close the file with little interest, Preston takes it upon himself to stop the doomsday attack.

Vital Statistics
Studio: J. Arthur Rank
Running Time: 119 minutes
Box-Office (Domestic): $12,423,831
Tagline: "If the Fourth Protocol is ever breached, there would be no warning, just a nuclear explosion from a bedsitter...The unthinkable has just begun..."

Directed by: John Mackenzie
Produced by: Timothy Burrill, Michael Caine, Frederick Forsyth et al
Written by: George Axelrod, Frederick Forsyth
Music by: Francis Shaw.

"You, and your schoolboy politics, and your idiotically conceited faith in your own importance." - Sir Nigel Irvine scolding a defector.

Cast & Characters

John Preston
Michael Caine

Major Valeri Petrofsky
Pierce Brosnan

Irina Vassilievna
Joanna Cassidy

Brian Harcourt-Smith
Julian Glover

Sir Nigel Irvine
Ian Richardson

George Berenson
Anton Rodgers

Moscow, Russia; London, UK; Glasgow, UK; Luton, UK; RAF Baywaters, UK.

The exact reason why John Preston is assigned to ports duty is glossed over the film. What seems like a plot hole is lacking due to the extraction of a large sequence in which Preston interrogates known Soviet informer Jan Marais. In the novel it is because of the way that Preston handles the interrogation that he is assigned to the menial shipping division.

The fourth protocol takes its name from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty between Britain, USA, USSR amongst others. In the plot, the protocols govern the movement, use, storage etc of nuclear materials, the fourth of which prevent the non-conventional distribution of nuclear weapons (nuclear weapons must only be delivered by conventional means such as aircraft or missiles). In the story, a rogue Russian leader conspires to break the fourth protocol and bomb a British airbase by smuggling parts of the weapon in series of ordinary looking items.

Above: Pierce Brosnan in character as Major Valeri Petrofsky in 'Russia' (Finland doubled for the country, and every other scene was filmed in the UK), and Michael Caine as agent John Preston outside MI5 headquarters.

The Bond Connection
Set at the height of the Cold War, "The Fourth Protocol" follows MI5 agent John Preston who is relegated to shipping and imports policing for a misdemeanour, but stumbles across a plot to bomb an RAF airbase. The man responsible, Major Valeri Petrofsky, is played by a young Pearce Brosnan. Michael Caine (of Harry Palmer fame) takes on yet another role as a spy in the plot resembles that of 1983's "Octopussy". The film's supporting cast includes Julian Glover who, as Bond fans will recall, played Kristatos in "For Your Eyes Only". Cinematography was by Phil Meheux who in recent times has worked closely with director Martin Campbell, including with the director on "GoldenEye" and "Casino Royale". The production cheekily reversed James Bond's codenumber and put '700' in Brosnan's motorcycle licence plate. This was Brosnan's first film after being forced out of taking the James Bond role due to his Remington Steele contract. It opened a month after Timothy Dalton's first 007 outing "The Living Daylights" premiered.

Above: A young Pierce Brosnan stands by for shooting.

Production Notes
Based on the 1984 spy-fi novel of the same name by Frederick Forsyth, the film is produced by the author himself, along with its star Michael Caine. The team recruited a cast of both American and British screen veterans, but cast a young Pierce Brosnan as the Russian killer. In a rare twist for Hollywood, all of the actors speak with their natural accents, rather than attempting a Russian bark.

The production shot extensively in England, including at Pinewood studios. Notably scenes set at the fictional RAF Baywaters were filmed at RAF Upper Heyford, which has since been decommissioned. The name is a take on the real life RAF Bentwaters. For the Russian scenes, a second unit (which included Pierce Brosnan for a time) shot in Lapland, Finland.

"The Fourth Protocol" premiered in London on 19th March 1987. The film opened in America on 28th August to reasonable reviews, jumping to #4 on the box office ranking and collecting $3,636,831 in its opening weekend.

Above: Gordon Honeycombe, Frederick Forsyth, Joanna Cassidy and John McKenzie at6 a preview screening in March 1987.

Capsule Reviews
"The story is pretty straightforward. A ruthless KGB head plans to detonate a nuclear bomb close to a US airbase in England so the Brits blame the Yanks and the NATO alliance will collapse. What follows is a good old-fashioned race against time as Caine tracks down his Russian alter ego Major Petrofsky (Pierce Brosnan) and after a hand-to-hand scuffle manages to defuse the bomb." - Variety

"'Protocol' is espionage as exhilarating as the better Bond but with less of the winky camp. This is deadly stuff: We see just how easy atomic terrorism would be." - Washington Post

"The key Russian operative is played by Pierce Brosnan, in what certainly is the best performance he has ever given, as a dark, brooding man with an outwardly cheerful disposition and a perfect British accent. The only person who seems capable of anticipating his plan, and stopping it, is Michael Caine as a British intelligence officer who is in political trouble with his bosses because he's too independent." - Chicago Sun-Times

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