Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is one of those movies where you are probably best advised to leave most of your brain at home. Think too much and you'll find plot holes and ludicrous improbabilities. This may taint your enjoyment of what is surely one of the most exciting films ever to hit the big screen. For this is a pulsating, heart-pumping popcorn movie of the highest quality.
The plot revolves around the attempts of IMF, headed by Agent Ethan Hunt (a very cool and unflustered Tom Cruise), to prevent nuclear war between the USA and Russia after the Kremlin is bombed and IMF framed for the attack. The team is disavowed with the `Ghost Protocol', a black ops contingency, forcing the remaining members to continue alone to attempt to prove their innocence and find the real terrorists behind the bombing in a globe-trotting rogue mission. Support for Hunt comes in the form of the remaining 3 agents of IMF; technology nerd Benji (Simon Pegg); Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and Brandt (The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner), an analyst hiding a deep secret.
In a move that will surely have the creators of Bond 23 reaching for the smelling salts, director Brad Bird (whose only previous directing credits are animated films) packs the film with fast cars, gadgets (albeit with some dubious science) and audacious stunts. Bird's handling of the action scenes is masterful, bringing the same flair and sophistication that he exhibited in his Pixar features `The Incredibles' and `Ratatouille'. By this evidence he was the perfect man to take the Mission Impossible franchise to a whole different level. Ghost Protocol isn't just better than its three predecessors; it obliterates them, and in terms of its sense of fun and for sheer white-knuckle excitement, its one of the best action films I have ever seen.
In one vertigo inducing scene, Hunt scales several floors of the Burj Khalifa (the world's tallest building) 100 storeys up. This scene is so breathtakingly well filmed that it will surely induce toe curling and gasping from anyone with even a slight fear of heights. One of the scariest five minutes of any film I can remember. In another sequence, Hunt chases a fleeing villain first on foot and then by car through a raging Dubai sandstorm. Before its release to blu-ray and DVD, I would urge you to watch on an IMAX screen if you can.
The frequency and ferocity of the big action set pieces may mask a slight lack of character depth and development. Ethan Hunt is probably not the most interesting or complex of heroes and the villains feel a tad underwritten, though actress Lea Seydoux puts in an eye-catching turn as a sultry French assassin. But it would be churlish of me to suggest that this spoiled my enjoyment of the film one iota. Ghost Protocol may not have great depth or meaning, but it is certainly tense and thrilling and in its finest moments, utterly awesome entertainment. 9/10.