Ghost Protocol begins with Tom Cruise behind bars, but trying to keep the Cruiser contained is like trying to put the genie back in the bottle.
He might be a few months shy of 50, but he’s still doing things no other movie star can.
And so, brilliantly set to the swing of Dean Martin’s ‘Ain’t That a Kick In The Head’, the opening prison-break sequence busts him out in funny, brutal, effortless style... and this Mission raced away to become the biggest hit of Cruise’s 30-year career.
After the startling darkness of M:I:III, Ghost is lifted by a winning playfulness – the cool gadgets (portable cloaking device, HUD contact lenses) are constantly malfunctioning. Even a phone booth refuses to self-destruct on cue.
That’s oscar-winning Pixar ace Brad Bird for you, making his live-action debut after a faultless trio of animations (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) and proving he’s too big for ’toontown.
He’s given the Impossible Mission force a welcome refresh: Precious’ Paula Patton (steely, sexy), Simon Pegg (techie, funny) and Jeremy Renner (alpha-male intensity muzzled) join Ethan Hunt’s latest mission.
But you only fully realise it after a tense, witty heist at the Kremlin climaxes with the entire building exploding in a single take as a sprinting Ethan Hunt is swallowed up by the dust-cloud.
There he is again, clinging to the windows of the world’s tallest building, on the 130th floor, nearly half a mile in the air, with suction gloves that don’t work.
For once, phrases like “edge of the seat” and “breathtaking” apply literally – Cruise’s x-treme performance giving astonishing stunts a very rare, very real sense of risk.
The plot is an irrelevance. A briefcase-shaped MacGuffin containing Russian nuclear launch codes... An icy assassinatrix (Léa Seydoux) who should’ve been the villain instead of Swedish Dragon Tattoo star Michael Nyqvist’s nihilist loon... Cruise’s team gone rogue...
Loosely wired together by Alias scribes Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, Ghost is really just a chain reaction of incredible set-pieces.
In fact, the film never recovers from the adrenaline-comedown of its extraordinary Dubai sequence. Stacking scenes on top of each other, Bird keeps the movie flexing relentlessly between hold-your-breath tension and open-throttle action.
Double-deception, shootout, brawl, Cruise hurtling through a chaotic sandstorm... it’s the best Bond film never made.