Title: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Studio/Distributor: Paramount Pictures/Skydance Productions/Bad Robot

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Samuli Edelmann, Ivan Shvedoff, Anil Kapoor, Léa Seydoux, Josh Holloway, Pavel Kriz, Miraj Grbic, Ilia Volok, Goran Navojec

Director: Bird Bird

Writer(s): Josh Applebaum & André Nemec, Bruce Geller (based on the television series created by)

Synopsis: After a failed mission that causes a bombing in the Kremlin, the IMF is implicated in the bombing and declared terrorists by the Russian government. To clear their names of the crime, the team (led once again by Ethan Hunt) must track down the real mastermind behind the crime: a nuclear strategist with plans to bomb the US back to the Stone Age.

Bottom Line: After a somewhat standard third installment in the series was released in 2006, the “Mission: Impossible” franchise return to true form with a rip-roaring determination to make a better sequel and to learn of their mistakes that came with the ’06 threequel (which, to a lesser degree, is still a entertaining entry in the film series). First, a sidenote: “Ghost Protocol” was the first release to kick-off Paramount Pictures’ year-long 100th Anniversary celebration by premiering their sparkling new logo before the movie, not to mention that the film arrived when the first movie had its 15th anniversary (it was released in 1996). Now, on to the movie, which begins (like the previous films) with a prologue that has IMF agent Trevor Hanaway (Holloway) running away from killers while on a mission in Budapest. Hannaway dispatches both men while jumping off of a rooftop safely thanks to a IMF gadget but the mission ends for Hannaway when his handheld device signals an incoming assassin too late. The assassin is Sabine Moreau (Seydoux of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), an ice-blooded killer with an even icier glare and Moreau kills Hanaway with no remorse or regrets, making off with a courier that Hannaway was making off with involving a person of interest code-named “Cobalt”. Fast forward to a Moscow prison where Hannaway’s team leader Jane Carter (Patton) and techno-expert turned field agent Benji Dunn (Pegg, reprising his brief role from the third film) extract Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his source Bogdan through a elaborate escape set to Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head”. Moments later, Hunt is recruited to lead Carter & Dunn on a mission to the Kremlin to infilrate the secret archives and locate the files that identify “Cobalt” but someone is broadcasting on IMF’s frequency, thus alerting the Russians to the team’s presence. While Hunt, Carter & Dunn have escaped, a bomb demolishes the Kremlin and Hunt is falsely targeted by Interpol agent Sidirov (Mashkov), who relentlessly pursuits Hunt throughout the film. Hunt meets up with IMF’s secretary (an uncredited Tom Wilkinson) and intelligence analyst William Brandt (Renner) to inform Hunt that the bombing on the Kremlin has been deemed an undeclared act of war by the Russian government and the US President has initiated “Ghost Protocol”, an black market contingency in which the entire IMF is disavowed and, if caught, will branded terrorists bent on thermonuclear war but luckily, the secretary gives Hunt a chance to escape custody and track down “Cobalt”. However, before that could happen, the Russian security team led by Sidirov kills the secretary, leaving Hunt & Brandt to find their own way out. They catch up with Carter & Dunn in a special location inside of a moving train and they unlock the identity of “Cobalt”, who is Swedish-born nuclear strategist Kurt Hendricks, who believes that the weak must die for the strong to survive, thus planning a nuclear strike against America. Through a series of spectacular action sequences and surprising revelations, the remaining IMF team must track down Hendricks, find the nuclear launch-control device, clear their names and save the world from nuclear destruction. Director Brad Bird, who won acclaim for “The Iron Giant” as well as two Oscar-winning Pixar classics “The Incredibles” & “Ratatouille”, clearly did his homework when it came to his first live-action feature. He captures what “Mission: Impossible” is and what should be: a rollercoaster ride of adventure, excitement, lush locations & nothing but fun. Much like the first three films, the fourth movie’s signature action set piece is Ethan scaling the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building located in Dubai, one of the film’s many international locations. Tom Cruise once again proves that he has the guts to scale the tallest building in the world, without any assistance from stunt doubles or visual effects (which are provided for the third time in the franchise by Industrial Light & Magic). Series newcomers Renner & Patton hold their own in the film and get their own hevy doses of action (particularly Patton, who gets into a vicious girlfight with Seydoux), not to mention Pegg providing his own brand of comic sensibility in a few scenes. All four leads definitely looked like they had a lot of fun working together and it shows, even during the film’s final moments. “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” is more than just a worthy sequel to a blockbuster franchise, it could be the best action-adventure that the 2011 summer movie season wished they had. Mission Accomplished!