Review in a Hurry: Like some of the older James Bond movies, the new Mission: Impossible offers up a delicious blend of hilariously convenient futuristic gadgets, inventively staged and almost ludicrously perilous action and a Cold War-era arch villain with dreams of global annihilation. Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt still ain't much of a character, but at this point, does he really need to be?
The Bigger Picture: If you think the Dark Knight Rises clip attached to Imax prints contains the biggest thrills you'll get all night, don't be too surprised if you're promptly proven wrong. With numerous shot-in-Imax spectacle moments and larger-than-life heroics, Ghost Protocol is an Impossible dream.
Paradoxically, the public perception of Cruise is actually an asset here. Ethan Hunt has seldom been much more than "Tom Cruise, action guy"—like virtually any role played by, say, Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme, the character is defined by the performer defiantly not disappearing into the part. So back when Cruise just seemed like a generic, smiling, handsome guy, Ethan was dull. Now that he comes off in public appearances as slightly crazed and reckless, we project that onto the character too; and it's for the better.
No longer is the IMF's main man an easily betrayed pawn in a larger game. Now a badass who writes his own rules, Ethan first shows up onscreen in a Russian prison—but only because he chooses to be there. Freed by his team, which consists solely of returning hacker Benji (Simon Pegg) and new dangerous beauty Jane (Paula Patton), he's promptly asked to break into the Kremlin. It's a job that goes so badly wrong that by the end of it, the U.S. and Russia stand on the brink of a nuclear war, which one particular nut job terrorist named Cobalt (Daniel Craig's Dragon Tattoo predecessor Michael Nyqvist) is determined to kickstart.
On the plus side, the chaos that ensues augments the team with a new member, the enigmatic Brandt (Jeremy Renner), who seems like a mild-mannered analyst, but has some hidden secrets. The new mission, for reasons you're probably better off not asking about, sends our heroes to Dubai and India, both of which are apparently full of buildings designed in the spirit of Donkey Kong's toughest levels. Director Brad Bird, known primarily for animated fare like The Incredibles, has applied his love of gadgets and madcap action to this real-life cartoon. It lacks the emotion of The Iron Giant, but if you want to watch Tom Cruise cry, rent Born on the Fourth of July (really, do: it's good).
Where previous M:I films tended to hang their hats on one or two solid action sequences, this has at least four, and the ginormous screen makes them all epic. See it in Imax if you can.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Simon Pegg overdoes the comic relief a bit; Benji's incessant babbling even during dangerous missions would likely get him shot preemptively by his own team in real life. Also, the opening credits commit grievous self-spoilage by showing us a highlight reel of scenes that haven't happened yet, so close your eyes until the theme tune stops.