Mission accomplished

"Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol," to its very core, is the definition of chaos cinema.

Unabashedly, it's that pure example of what some critics call the assaultive approach to filmmaking and the "annihilation of narrative logic."

It's intense, amazingly visual, with breathtaking scenes that are, naturally, high risk/high gain. It's also, true to form, narrative-lite.

Of course, there is a nihilistic adversary (Michael Nyquist), a doomsday psychopath pursuing Russian launch codes that will allow him to start a global nuclear war. The thought makes him tingle all over.

It's the IMF team's mission, should they choose to accept it, to retrieve, at all costs, those codes. Not the most complex of tales. Launch codes? A missile? But wrapped around this frayed plot is a rocket of a film. So to speak.

In this fourth installment of "MI" (the first was in 1996), Tom Cruise again returns as Ethan Hunt. And "Ghost Protocol" is, in many ways, the best of the four, due in great part to the evolution of film technology, specifically green screen CGI. Filmmakers now can create visuals that they could have only imagined in '96.

The term "Ghost Protocol" refers to the government's disavowal of the team — consisting of agents Jane Carter (Paula Patton), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and of course Ethan Hunt (Cruise). If they are to find the codes and prevent armageddon, it will be without the support or knowledge of the MI handlers.

Doesn't mean they don't have serious gear. They do. To gather information regarding the location of the codes, the team must first penetrate the bowels of the Kremlin for vital documents. The plan goes south, resulting in a spectacular explosion that flattens a Russian records building. But no codes.

The team now heads to Dubai. There's a meeting of arms dealers who will trade the codes for diamonds. Said swap takes place on the 130th floor of the Burj Khalifa tower, presently the world's tallest building. Naturally, Ethan can't use the elevator to get to, say, the 139th floor (he's on the 125th); instead, he has to scale the exterior, using gecko like gloves that adhere to the plate glass windows. No ropes, no harnesses. It's breathtaking and vertigo-inducing.

Then there's a pedal-to-the-metal car chase. Still no codes.

From Dubai, it's on to Mumbai, India, where the hunt continues. In Mumbai, get ready for a harrowing scene between Ethan and the lethal wing nut, Hendricks, who is carrying a case that can disarm the missile. Meanwhile, the game clock is ticking; time is of the essence.

The "Mission Impossible" films have always been big tent events, and "Ghost Protocol" feels like it should have had a summer release. Nevertheless, it's stunning, a veritable feast of sweaty-palm virtual reality. With a solid cast.

Of course, Cruise is aging along with the "MI" series; yet, he still insists on doing most of his own stunts, his athleticism amazing, despite the fact that he is closing in on 50.

Though "Ghost Protocol" ends with a teaser — new team now assembled and a new assignment — it will be interesting to see if Ethan Hunt has enough juice for another hair-raising assignment, should he choose to accept it.

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