Harry Palmer versus 90’s James Bond, or so it seems in this tense and suspenseful 1987 Cold War thriller from bestselling espionage author, Frederick Forsyth and director John Mackenzie.
The Fourth Protocol refers to a secret section of an Anti-Nuclear Proliferation agreement signed by the US, UK and Russia. The film opens with John Preston (Michael Caine) breaking into the home of a MI6 traitor, who has been giving secrets to Apartheid-Era South Africa (when in fact, he’s been giving it to Moscow).
Preston, is a rebellious, rule-breaking intelligence agent whose attitude gets him sent from the security services to C5 section (protecting ports and airports). With C5, Preston discovers that components for a mini atomic bomb have been smuggled into the UK.
Pierce Brosnan stars as Valeri Petrofsky, a cold, meticulous Soviet agent who is directed by hardliner KGB General Govorshin to detonate an atomic bomb near an American Air Base. The KGB hopes this will cause the Americans to be blamed for the Nuclear Incident and be kicked out of the UK, effectively destroying NATO.
The film consists of both Russian and UK intelligence agencies attempting to stop the rogue KGB agent.
Brosnan, in particular, is excellent as the taciturn assassin, drawing comparisons to Edward Fox’s Jackal assassin in the, ‘Day of the Jackal’. His character is ruthless in the movie, even killing fellow Soviet agents in order to complete his mission.
Caine, is also great, equal parts tough and sardonic. He even gets to flex his action skills, beating up some skinhead punks on the London Underground and having a fistfight with Brosnan near the end of the film. This late Eighties gem is supported by strong supporting turns by Ian Richardson and Ned Beatty as English and Russian government officials.
The movie’s score by Lalo Schifrin is also top-notch.
Overall, the film is an underrated spy thriller and proves that Pierce Brosnan would have played an exceptional secret agent well before GoldenEye.