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Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Year: 2011
Production Co: Bad Robot/Skydance
Studio: Paramount
Director: Brad Bird
Producer: Tom Cruise/J J Abrams/Bryan Burk
Writer: Josh Appelbaum/André Nemec
Cast: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Michael Myqvist, Léa Seydoux, Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan

When James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger made True Lies, someone either said they wanted it to be America's answer to James Bond or there was just a pervasive feeling around at the time (I can't remember which). You could certainly see that hope in the film itself, from the all-powerful, semi-fictional government spy agency and gadgets to the globetrotting.

A sequel was planned but Cameron supposedly dropped the idea after September 11, saying terrorism wasn't funny anymore.

At the time of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, the Bond franchise is at another cyclical low ebb. The producers tried to go dark, dramatic and realistic with their reboot, and because the box office vindicated their plan so decisively after Casino Royale they pressed on in the new direction. But Bond's been down this road before and the result is always the same. Like Diamonds are Forever and The Living Daylights, Quantum of Solace might have been authentic to Fleming's novels, but it was simply no fun.

If Cruise and Paramount wanted to step into the vacant shoes Bond used to fill, they've done a beautiful job here. MI4 is the grand old-style spy adventure Bond films haven't been for quite awhile.

There's a mystique Bond films lose when they get too serious, one Ghost Protocol hit dead centre. You used to be able to sum it up with a scene like Bond scuba diving to a heavily guarded island, knocking out the guard and peeling the wetsuit off to reveal a tux for the party.

MI4 has that same mood of movie fun, no matter how serious the characters or the plot are. There's a black tie party populated with babes and billionaires, the dazzling climb up the outside of Dubai's Burj Khalifa tower, chases through the seething streets of urban India and a series of larger than life set pieces from the dust storm blowing in to envelop the city to the brutal fight in an automated multi-storey carpark. It's as much Bird's show as Cruise's for the sheer scope.

On a routine but typically dangerous mission to steal a file from the inner sanctum of the Kremlin, a bomb goes off that destroys half the square. When Ethan (Cruise) escapes from the clutches of the local police, he's told by the visiting US defence secretary (Wilkinson) that the bombing will be pinned on his team and – unofficially – that they have to go rogue to clear their names. The IMF is being disavowed.

So Ethan scoops up Benji (Pegg, comic relief and at times a little bit on the irritating side), the delectable Jane (Patton) and blow-in Brandt (Renner), the secretary's aide who harbours a secret about Ethan's past.

The gang jet from one exotic location to another where they carry out a series of visually stunning, dangerous and desperate missions to get to the bottom of the betrayal – a brilliant Swedish nuclear strategist (Nyqvist) who's turned mad scientist in believing nuclear war is part of the natural order and intends to unleash one.

Cruise doesn't have to try to hard here, but you can still see the quality that's made him a star for 30 years. He and Bird don't ask anything from you except to have a good time, and they deliver it in truckloads. If I was Daniel Craig, Michael Wilson or Barbra Broccoli I'd be watching very closely and taking notes.

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