Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Highly-entertaining espionage-induced carnage

For all his faults, there is no denying the screen presence of Tom Cruise. He is at his blistering best when charging through scenes of carefully choreographed mayhem, and that's just what you get in this highly-entertaining instalment of espionage-induced carnage.

The hype...

Four films and four directors into Tom Cruise's vehicle, there were serious doubts about this sequel happening. Cruise was even off the project at one point, with Brad Pitt reportedly in line to take over. However, as things panned out, Cruise is back with 'The Incredibles' and 'Ratatouille' filmmaker Brad Bird making his first ever live-action feature.

The story...

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is holed up in an Eastern European prison. Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) is on hand to break him out, alongside Jane Carter (Paula Patton), who has her own reasons for wanting Hunt back in action.

The mission they accept proves to be a disastrous mistake, as the Kremlin is attacked and the IMF team framed by an extremist with an agenda (Michael Nyqvist). The entire department is disavowed and our small group are left to fend for themselves. But they are joined by analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner) who has vital information that might just save the day.

Hunt and the newly-formed team travel around the globe to avert a nuclear crisis, but no-one can be trusted, and with each individual vying to stamp their authority on the others, will Ethan be able to keep his emotions in check?

The breakdown...

One of the best action films of the year, this non-stop adrenaline ride does exactly what it should. Most importantly, Tom Cruise is as eager as ever to run, jump, punch and glare his way through all manner of obstacles. When on this sort of form, he's the best Hollywood stunt man around, and as a jobbing actor on the side he ain't bad either.

There are scenes where you begin to see Cruise's age for the first time. He's played older characters before, but here he looks naturally mature. Fortunately it's not reflected in any bogus subplots about Ethan struggling to keep up with the younger pups on the team, but neither is there any pretence that Cruise is still in his twenties.

[See also: 'Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' review]

With this in mind, Jeremy Renner is introduced into the mix. We had thought this was to shoulder more of the action before eventually taking over in the lead role of the series, but there is none of that here. No mission would be complete without Cruise.

Brad Bird proves a great choice as director. He brings full-blooded action sequences, displaying some real wit and invention throughout. It's a world away from the animated movies he is known for, but is a surprisingly seamless transition. That said, Cruise has always provided the consistency to the MI series while new directors added elements to keep it fresh, so if there is a fifth one we wouldn't be surprised to see a new man at the helm. 

The final third of the film, set in India, somehow lacks the flare of the action before it. This is largely due to how good the outstanding Dubai-set sequence is. The Burj Kalifah hotel is the location and the Mission team all get to show off what they are good at.

Renner displays some great comic timing, portraying the realist of the group. The superb Paula Patton starts off as the honey-trap but then gets to show some real steel as a woman looking for revenge. This is undone slightly in the final act, but she's still believable as a high-level operative.

Simon Pegg's routine does wear thin early on, however, and thrusting him into the limelight in this film means you have to put up with a lot more of his predictable shenanigans and one-liners. The plot also feels slightly retro, and as such the villains rather nondescript.

Don't let that distract you from the real star though, and in the spectacular, vertigo-inducing scenes we experienced at the IMAX, there really is no one that can do it like Tom.

The verdict...

Well-crafted action and a star on top form combine with great support in what is one of the best action movies of recent years. Spectacular stuff, boasting some of the most impressive stunts you could ever imagine.

Rating: 4/5

'Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol' will be released nationwide on 26 December. Certificate: 12A.