This is Weapons of Mass Destruction week. The Fourth Protocol is currently available on instant Netflix.
PASS: The Fourth Protocol (1987) – Rated R.
“In an effort to shatter NATO alliances, Russian spy Valeri Petrofsky (Pierce Brosnan) plots to explode a nuclear bomb in Britain and blame the act on America. It is up to British agent John Preston (Michael Caine) to foil the plan, despite the skepticism of his superiors. Based on the book by best-selling author Frederick Forsyth, this well-crafted espionage thriller also stars Joanna Cassidy as a second Russian agent.”
“He is armed with a bomb.” – “How big a bomb?” – “Atomic bomb.”
Director John MacKenzie does a capable job here. Unfortunately that is the best that can be said. This is a typical by-the-numbers Cold War spy thriller. There is no particular flair or artistry involved.
Author Frederick Forsyth helped write the screenplay from his novel. The script is very literate but there is very little life or passion in it. It is strange that with so much attention to detail, the antagonists assemble the atomic bomb with their bare hands, including handling the radioactive material.
Gasp! John Preston (Michael Caine) is a rogue agent who does not play by the rules! In one scene he notably stares at a countdown timer as it reaches 007. He is a little past his prime here but always enjoyable.
Pierce Brosnan (post-Remington Steele, pre-James Bond) is our primary antagonist. He drives a motorcycle with the tag C700 OBL (yet another 007 reference). Joanna Cassidy is his cover “wife”.
Ian Richardson is the only standout in a good cast. He is simply superb in his brief screen-time as Sir Nigel Irvine. While I have not reviewed them yet, his starring role in The House of Cards trilogy is extremely highly recommended.
The rest of the cast is quite good as well though they seem somewhat wasted. Julian Glover is the priggish boss, Brian Harcourt-Smith, who refuses to believe any evidence simply because he hates John Preston. Michael Gough plays outgoing boss, Sir Bernard Hemmings (so we have both of the recent Alfreds, faithful butler to Batman). Ned Beatty plays Borisov.
None of the action is exciting. A car does a 180 degree screech to a halt so Preston can grab a train. A van hits two other cars to pull out of a traffic jam. Ho hum.
There is nothing wrong with this thriller (well other than that it is not very thrilling) but there is nothing special about it either. In spite of the good cast, I cannot really recommend this.
People Watch: Matt (Max Headroom) Frewer has a small part here as Tom McWhirter. He puts quite the twang into his voice. Frederick Forsyth cameos as a radio newsreader.