If you can believe Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist could go toe-to-toe with Tom Cruise, mono-e-mono, then chances are you'll have no problems with the preposterous, yet highly entertaining action sequences which precede that showdown in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.
With all due to respect to Nyqvist, best known as the male lead in the Millennium trilogy of films, he doesn't seem to possess the physical prowess of Mr. Cruise. And as the villain of Ghost Protocol, Kurt Hendricks - a European crackpot with the belief that out of the ashes of a nuclear apocalypse, a greater society will evolve - hand-to-hand combat would seem to be beneath him.
Hendricks has stolen Russia's nuclear launch codes and it is the mission of Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his IMF team - agents Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Jane Carter (Paula Patton), and analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner) - to retrieve them and prevent Hendricks from putting his theory to the test.
That sees the IMF quartet, declared rogue after being accused of bombing the Kremlin, globetrotting from Russia, to the United Arab Emirates, and to India on the scantest of plots but a helluva lot of adrenaline. Ghost Protocol is essentially a series of action set pieces, the highlight of which takes place in Dubai and involves the world's tallest building, the Khalifa Tower.
This is truly heart-in-your-mouth stuff, made all the more exciting given that we know Cruise did his own stunt work, jumping out of and running alongside the actual tower. It's made even more tense if you see it in IMAX, which Ghost Protocol was specifically shot for. I'm not a fan of watching feature films in the IMAX format - it's just too big - but this sequence almost makes it worth it (those who suffer from vertigo, however, may want to skip it.).
And Brad Bird, making his live-action directorial debut after much success in animation - The Iron Giant (1999), and Pixar's The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007) - certainly knows his way around an action scene; Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec's screenplay, however, doesn't provide much in the way of character. But I'm guessing that's not why people go to see a Mission: Impossible film, and those same people shouldn't be disappointed with this outing.
Still, I could have done with a bit more insight into Nyqvist's bad guy, or even just some more screen time to flesh him out. One of the best things about Mission: Impossible 3 (2006) (the only other entry in this franchise I've seen) was Philip Seymour Hoffman's playful villain. Sadly, Nyqvist seems to have been cast for his recognizable European-ness and little else.
Tom Cruise, on the other hand, still makes for a credible action man, despite his turning 50 next year. And [Spoiler Alert] the film's conclusion gives every reason to believe that he, and Ethan Hunt, will be back for a fifth Mission: Impossible.
That's contrary to speculation that Jeremy Renner's appearance in Ghost Protocol was to be a passing of the torch, from one IMF agent - and one generation of actors - to another. I'm guessing retirement is a mission Tom Cruise is not yet willing to accept.