“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” the latest installment in the 16-year-old series, is one of the best. It marks the live-action debut of director Brad Bird, the highly imaginative mind behind those animated marvels “Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles,” and “Ratatouille.” He makes the transition smoothly, perhaps because so many of the highflying stunts in this film are essentially out of "The Incredibles” playbook. The movie, although it will be available in standard formats, is best enjoyed in IMAX, where the big death-defying hijinx and the panoramas of places like Dubai, United Arab Emirates, are literally eye-popping.
Tom Cruise is, of course, back as Ethan Hunt, who we first see breaking out of a Russian prison with the help of Simon Pegg’s computer whiz Benji Dunn, another holdover from the previous escapade. Soon joining in are no-nonsense Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and agent William Brandt (Jeremy Renner). When a secret mission inside the Kremlin goes terribly wrong and part of the edifice is blown away, the IMF team is declared “ghost protocol” by the US president – i.e. they’re on their own.
Even without any official backup, the impossibilists have a ready arsenal of space-age hardware at their disposal. They’ll need it. They are attempting, after all, to bring down a mad genius (Michael Nyqvist) who wants to reboot the world by triggering a nuclear winter.
The film’s centerpiece stunt is Ethan’s clinging with suction gloves to the side of Dubai’s tallest building, 123 stories up. Cruise reportedly did his own stunt work. If so, I can only imagine what the insurance on this film cost.
Some of the action gets repetitive, and the Mumbai sequences would have been better if Mumbai, and not just the interiors of a zillionaire’s fancy hotel, had been utilized. But “Ghost Protocol” is a very good thrill ride and Cruise is better than he’s been in a long time. Despite all the calisthenics, he seems relaxed – even while dangling sky high. Grade: A- (Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence.)