With all the big blockbuster movies opening up at Christmastime this year, why should anyone go see the latest sequel in a tired 15-year-old action series?
Because "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol" is the best film in the "Mission: Impossible" series and one of the best action movies of the year.
Director Brad Bird, the man behind animated hits "The Incredibles," "Ratatouille" and "The Iron Giant," takes on live-action for the first time and surpasses all expectations. His "Ghost Protocol" provides energy, humor and thrills — and simultaneously gives Tom Cruise back his action-star mojo.
Cruise, whose own personal eccentricities, more than anything else, short-circuited the box office for 2006's very solid "Mission Impossible III," is back and better than ever as super-agent Ethan Hunt.
This time around, Hunt and his IMF team are implicated in a little mishap at the Kremlin and are disavowed by the American government. They're cut off from any support and left on their own to foil a terrorist plot involving stolen nuclear launch codes.
Simon Pegg ("Shaun of the Dead") earns a larger role in this sequel as Benji, the team's tech genius. He enjoys some nice back-and-forth with Cruise, and gives the film most of its much-needed light moments.
Paula Patton ("Precious") gives an above-average performance as Jane, the requisite sexy female leg-breaker, and Jeremy Renner plays Brandt, an enigmatic analyst thrust into the field out of necessity.
Michael Nyqvist, star of the Swedish version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" (the Americanized version, with Daniel Craig, was also released this past week), plays the off-kilter terrorist who matches wits with the desperate IMF agents.
Cruise performs most of his own stunts in "Ghost Protocol," and most of them are doozies. The film's set pieces are spectacular, including some innovative chase scenes and a breathtaking stretch outside the glass walls of a Dubai skyscraper.
The plot isn't very heavy and the actors aren't asked to deliver much in the way of nuance, but Bird puts the movie together coherently, easing off the throttle just long enough to make the next action sequence jump off the screen.
Though it's rated PG-13, "Ghost Protocol" doesn't have objectionable sex, profanity or gore — it's probably OK for 10-year-olds and up, if they can stand some death and inspired mayhem.
Most action movies promise edge-of-your-seat thrills, but "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol" is one that delivers on the promise.
Rental Recommendation: Much like "Ghost Protocol," the last (latest?) entry in the Jason Bourne series, "The Bourne Ultimatum," was the best. Grade: A
Email Steve Ouellette at: firstname.lastname@example.org