Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

The action set pieces in “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” are so cartoonish it’s no surprise Brad Bird of “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” fame made it his live action debut.

It is the rare fourth movie capable of revitalizing a franchise by cutting down on the exposition, hyper stylization and melodrama of each installment and delivering wholesome action movie adrenaline.

And for mainstream audiences this year, there is likely nothing more pulse pounding this side of “Super 8” (J.J. Abrams also produces) or just damned impressive than seeing the obviously psychotic Tom Cruise literally climbing and leaping from the world’s tallest building.

Cruise did all his own stunts at 2700 feet, but I was just as scared for the cameraman holding the IMAX rig to achieve this marvelous aerial cinematography.

These little flourishes that don’t overuse special effects and yet stretch our imaginations enough to teeter on a campy level are what make action movies like this so fun.

The surprising thing is that most of the film’s other memorable moments come in peculiar places. One long silent and unbelievably dopey sequence has Cruise and his sidekick played by Simon Pegg rigging a projection screen to fool just one guard.

This segment is so dumb and not nearly on par with the Dubai hotel sequence, but it’s well paced, it’s economical, there’s no cheesy dialogue (the same is true of much of the rest of the film) and it’s a wonderful diversion from a plot that keeps things deliberately rudimentary.

All you need to know is that Ethan Hunt (Cruise) has just been broken out of prison by his fellow agents Jane (Paula Patton) and the nerd comic foil computer hacker Benji (Pegg) to stop a crazed Russian warlord (Michael Nyqvist) from starting a nuclear war.

Beyond that, “Ghost Protocol” has fun creating coherent, colorful and creative action scenes that don’t require us to ask any more than how the hell Tom Cruise got up that high.

3 stars

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