Midway through Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise’s character, secret agent Ethan Hunt is seen scaling Dubai’s 2,700-foot Burj Khalifa with nothing more than a pair of sticky gloves. Anyone suffering from a fear of heights would be advised to shut their eyes during this breathtaking but also vertigo-inducing sequence that’s been filmed in IMAX, and is believed to be performed by Cruise himself. As the camera stares down from the 130th floor of the world’s tallest building to capture Cruise making his way up unsteadily, more than likely you’ll be clinging to your armrest. 

Ghost Protocol is easily the most enjoyable of the four Mission Impossible movies, not least because it borrows the best elements of each of the previous films and fuses them to create a fast-paced, clever, and – believe it or not – humorous adventure. Applying the same “no limits” mantra that he used to turn The Incredibles and Ratatouille into such distinctly original and imaginative enterprises, animation veteran Brad Bird, making his live-action debut here, happily sacrifices plausibility for the sake of fun and thrills. What Bird also brings to the table is that genius Pixar touch, turning Hunt and his fellow IMF agents into a variation of the superhero family from The Incredibles. 

Hunt’s team on this new mission comprises tough-as-nails newbie Jane Carter (Paula Patton), gadget-guy Benji (Simon Pegg reprising his role from MI:3), and mysterious desk analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner). Together the team must overcome all manner of obstacles – including being disavowed by the US President when they’re (falsely) blamed for bombing the Kremlin – in their pursuit of crazy Russian businessman Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nvqvist), who’s determined to blow up the world. 

Bird sets the tone early with a cheeky jailbreak scene in Moscow, that’s followed by a nifty sequence in which Hunt and his team penetrate a private vault at the Kremlin using a virtual-reality trick to get past security. The wall-to-wall action continues as the team heads to Dubai for that dizzyingly brilliant skyscraper break-in sequence, and a breathless foot and car chase in a blinding sandstorm. It all ends in good ol’ Mumbai (recreated in Vancouver and Dubai, sadly) where Hunt and his nemesis duel it out at a fancy parking garage with moving platforms. 

Despite its improbable plot and frankly preposterous scenarios, Ghost Protocol races along briskly with earnest performances from its central players, until it arrives at that schmaltzy climax. There’s some pleasure to be had watching Anil Kapoor in a cameo as a sleazy Indian billionaire, who sportingly lets Patton’s character take him out in a few quick moves. 

Shot and edited with remarkable flair, Ghost Protocol is a treat for the senses. Cruise, who’s pushing 50 but hasn’t lost any of his charm, makes a convincing action hero, exuding warmth, humor and vulnerability to humanize the part. But the film belongs to its captain, director Brad Bird, who recognizes exactly what the franchise needed for a quickstart. 

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It’s exactly the kind of film that goes very well with a bucket of popcorn! 

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