By Jeffrey Westhoff  www.nwherald.com

“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” just doesn’t stop, and that’s the best thing about it. That’s also the worst thing about it. I was exhilarated yet exhausted by the time it was over.

Tom Cruise, reprising his role as Ethan Hunt, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg and Jeremy Rennerstar in "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol." (AP photo)
Tom Cruise, reprising his role as Ethan Hunt, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg and Jeremy Rennerstar in "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol." (AP photo)

Animation genius Brad Bird (“The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille”) makes his debut as a live-action director with this, the fourth “Mission: Impossible” movie, and he fires off one spectacular set piece after another. Before the famous theme song blares and the opening titles appear, we’ve already seen a rooftop chase and shootout in Budapest and an elaborate prison break in Moscow. Tom Cruise’s IMF agent Ethan Hunt is on the run from the start, and so is the movie. A full 90 minutes rush by before Bird pauses to allow the audience a chance to breathe and Ethan a chance to reassess the state of the plot.

The plot is a lulu. Minutes after he is rescued from that Moscow prison, Ethan is briefed (with the traditional “Your mission, if you choose to accept it”) that a radical known only as Cobalt recently stole Russia’s nuclear launch codes. Ethan and his team – computer ace Benji (Simon Pegg, returning from the third film) and newcomer Jane (Paula Patton) – are assigned to break into the Kremlin’s archive to learn Cobalt’s identity.

Unfortunately, the big plot twist that comes at the end of the first act was spoiled when the movie’s official plot synopsis was released last summer. The commercials give it away, too. For those of you lucky enough to not know, I’ll just say Ethan and his are framed for a terrorist attack in Moscow.

Another, more surprising, twist soon follows, one that has Jeremy Renner’s character, Brandt, reluctantly joining Ethan’s team. Brandt is a deskbound IMF analyst dropped into Moscow for an emergency briefing, but is forced to become a field agent once everything goes wrong.

After the disaster in Moscow, the president gives the movie its subtitle by invoking “ghost protocol” – effectively disavowing the entire IMF, secretary and all. With no backup or outside support, Hunt’s ill-prepared foursome must track down Cobalt and stop him from launching a warhead. More info

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