The IMF is shut down when it's implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear th eir organization's name.
On the cusp of turning 50, it looks like Tom Cruise has entered a new phase of self-conception with a more maturely controlled version of superspy Ethan Hunt in the sleek and supercharged Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. The things Cruise has done right in M: I part four include toning down his youthful, arrogant preening and letting his cast mates share more of the spotlight (Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, and Simon Pegg all have some terrifically shiny moments). He also lets the unique creative vision of director Brad Bird shine through in a first live-action outing for the acclaimed helm of Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. Still looking much younger than his years (that hair! those pecs! those abs!), Cruise is playing more age-appropriately, letting a little wisdom and grace seep into his charisma so the wattage of his mere presence smoulders a little deeper. It's a nice nod to a greying generation that says you can get older and still be cool. All that is not to say he doesn't play up his action-star chops to the max. In a mostly inconsequential narrative arc that has something to do with purloined nuclear launch codes, an important metal briefcase, satellite uplinks, and global annihilation that leaps from Moscow to Dubai to Mumbai, Cruise is as dangerously nimble as he has ever been. He dangles one-handed from the tallest building in the world, bounds off ledges, springs out of speeding vehicles, tumbles and careens up and down the levels of an automated parking garage, and generally sprints and jumps his way across the movie with only a scratch or bruise to show for it. Also on the outlandish upside is a happily stereotypical villain straight out of Connery-era Bond and as many bleeding-edge gadgets as the art department techno-geeks could dream up. A running gag is that many of these electronic fantasy tools fail at just the wrong moment, which is part of a larger wink acknowledging how utterly preposterous yet ingeniously conceived this behemoth of a movie really is. The gadgetry is not limited just to the miraculous props. Ghost Protocol employs CGI fakery of the highest order from the sub-industry of effects contractors that ratchet up the standard of computing power and software design, one-upping each successive action-adventure extravaganza. The loving detail that goes into blowing up the Kremlin or rendering a photo-realistic sandstorm erupting across the enhanced skyline of an Oz-like desert city is nothing short of miraculous. What's more astonishing is that Tom Cruise closes the deal with a selling power that's as new and improved as the laminates on his multi-million-dollar teeth. --Ted Fry