The Fourth Protocol

Perhaps one of the only times you’ll see Pierce Brosnan playing the baddie – Major Petrofsky – out to plant a nuclear bomb near an American air base in East Anglia, that could destroy NATO.

Secret Service agent John Preston (Michael Caine) is given the responsibility of stopping him. Cue the cars, a few stunts and the misuse of a Ford Transit, much to the detriment of a Mini (and a few others!), as SEBASTIAN MICHNOWICZ writes…

IF there’s a scene that sums up this adaptation of Frederic Forsyth’s novel, it’s an apparently throwaway scene on a tube train. The hero, Michael Caine’s tough guy spy, sees a black youth wearing a CND badge reduced to tears by the racist invective of a pair of Nazi skinheads. Hilariously, Caine punches both of them simultaneously unconscious, before nonchalantly exiting the train. My first instinct was to applaud this altruistic act of militant antifascism.

However the CND badge foreshadows the film’s climax, where a US airbase is under threat from a rogue Soviet agent (Pierce Brosnan) with a homemade nuclear device, as antiwar demonstrators march on the base. From the film’s tone, we’re supposed to think: ‘How misguided they are! If only they knew the work our brave security operatives are doing to protect their freedom to march, the treacherous swines!’

Talking of traitors, one is played by Anton Rodgers, who did the narration for the charming animated Old Bear Tales, which are one of my three-year-old daughter’s favourites. But I’ll never be able to hear his gentle soothing tones now, without thinking of Ian Richardson threatening Rodgers with blowtorches and pliers. Michael Caine is being played for a fool by Richardson (his boss), the revelation of which leads to a classic Caine put-down: “You belong in a facking museum!”

As for his steely adversary, the casting of Pierce Brosnan is interesting in retrospect, in the light of his subsequent career as one of the more successful latter-day James Bonds. Here he plays the kind of all-round bad guy 007 is always tackling. However, this villain’s ruthlessness and relentless sex drive are remarkably similar to the Her Majesty’s favourite secret agent. But unlike Bond, Brosnan’s character here swings both ways, and as soon as he has finished with his conquests, he dispatches them with Siberian sang froid. As for the other Russians, they speak English amongst themselves for some unknown reason – they don’t even bother to put on Russian accents. And whose idea was it to cast Ned Beatty as a Russian?

On the whole, The Fourth Protocol is a forgettable 1980s Cold War thriller that can be filed alongside the Lewis Collins vehicle Who Dares Wins (1983). Just ignore the scaremongering and wallow in nostalgia for a time when there were two superpowers.

Lord of the manner…

Just like the Mini in The Professionals, this Range Rover being driven outside some stately home in Yorkshire by intelligence-leaking Secret Service agent Barensen could well have come from the cover of a BL brochure.

Get me on the brick…

4×4 bling: Barensen reaches for the radio telephone in his Range Rover. The car overtaking in front is a Ford Cortina Mk V.

Role reversal…

Bad Boy Brosnan: the car of choice if you are a KGB agent looking to plant a nuclear bomb on an American air base is an Escort XR3.

Handbrake turn

Barry executes a handsome handbrake turn on the platform at St Pancras Station, just as the train Preston needs to catch is leaving.

Traffic jam…

Some British gems, including the white Princess up at the front, a white Land Rover, behind which is a BMC 1100. What looks a little bit like a Rover P6 or a Triumph Dolomite behind Petrofsky’s XR3i is actually a Lada… You might also spot a black Metro.

Marines in a Montego

The SAS arrive by chopper, to be taken to Preston’s base near Petrofsky’s house in a brown Austin Montego…

Crash! (Pt 1)

Preston sees Petrofsky just as he is driving off. Preston immediately turns around and starts running back towards the Transit and shouts, “Pull out, Barry!”, so Barry drives straight forwards, into the back of a Mini 1000, which in turn goes into the back of a Renault 14, making its avantgarde rear look even more avantgarde!

Crash (Pt 2)

Create a bit more room for yourself by reversing into a Citroen GS.

Drive out!

Proceed by ploughing down the wrong side of the road towards oncoming traffic, avoiding policemen, where possible. Note the Honda Prelude heading in the opposite direction…

One way traffic

Preston smells a rat when Petrofsky is shot dead in the mission to disarm him. Preston wants answers from his boss and rushes to the funeral of the head of the Secret Service, the wrong way down a one way street, in his Jaguar XJ6/XJ12, probably to the dismay of whoever was driving the MGB.

Keith Adams
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  1. That scene in the traffic jam was filmed on the then un opened Colchester By Pass I think.

    The face on Anton Rogers playing Agent Barrenson is a picture when he finds out he’s dropped a clanger unwittingly passing on files to the KGB.

    VASTLY under-rated film!

  2. I thought the traffic scenes were on the newly built and unopened Chelmer Valley Road (A1016) in Chelmsford. I only remember this as I was in ‘The Cricketers’ in Moulsham Street at the time (probably underage) and the locals were full of Michael Caine being in the locality filming, he may have even popped into one of the Moulsham Street pubs that week. When I watch the film I can certainly recognise the road as the Chelmer Valley Road.

  3. Sounds like a ‘must watch’ for Autoshite viewing.

    Incidentally, Peirce Brosnan played an IRA baddie in another great Autoshite movie- The Long Good Friday.

  4. Pierce Brosnan in a Ford Escort just looks like a juxtaposition compared to the BMWs and Aston Martins he piloted as a secret agent…

    The Transit looks strangely modern, though I suppose it was a new model and the silhouette lived on until the late 90s.

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