Director Brad Bird has had notable success with animated features that were as good as live action films competing for major "ten best" lists, including "The Iron Giant," "The Incredibles" (my favorite) and saucy/snappy vermin-cuisine-adventure "Ratatouille."

But this "Mission," fourth exemplar of the popular "MI" franchise, is a nonstop jump-onto-your-seatmate peopled actioner that brings in the very latest electronics gadgetry and fun-ciful man-toys that has you wondering when you can queue up to buy or even just play with the hologram doohickies, mesmerizing frog-gloves and anti-grav devices used by a buff Tom Cruise, who performs many of his own dare-deviltry stunts, the sensitive but buff Jeremy Renner ("Hurt Locker," 2009), the amusing, just-this-side-of-slapsticky Simon Pegg, and the stunning, hyperfit Paula Patton, whose beauty is almost a match for her martial arts, shooting skills and split-second timing.

As you've come to expect, astonishing efficiency in expediting the eye-defying escapes and chases, prison scenes and ballroom mise-en-scenes. Smart sass punctures the tensest moments, and there's even the odd meditative moments where Renner does his soft focus sharing, with the whole deal orchestrated with panache and unstoppable pacing guaranteed to pop those pockets of sleeping adrenalin inside your eyelids.

This is produced by Cruise, a 'Bad Robot' production, and the look is smooth, sleek, exceedingly high-end in terms of production values. And mega-millions.

Lest you think it's all blue-screen digital pyrotechnic whiz-bang, locales are real: uber dazzling Bucharest, Czechoslovakia, Russian prisons (lots of subtitling distinguish this mission) and the Kremlin, sites in Canada and the US as well as the glories of the supertall Burj Khalifa in Dubai, where much of the aerial dizzy-making and amazing physical rodomontade happens. It raises the bar, brings even the masterly Bond concept to a newer, higher stratum than ever. My companion became vertiginous from the Burj-y heights, which were real, not simulated, especially on the gargantuan IMAX screen. Cruise rappels down the world's tallest, slimmest stiletto tower, skittering down 130 flights or so with startling, lightning dispatch. Bad guys with bad complexions, precision bullet holes soon leaking measured ampoules of blood, and demonstrating negative human scruples interfere with nuclear codes, shiny lethal suitcases, missiles aimed at heavily populated areas, and print-machine contact lenses.but wait, why give away any more of the goodies, if it'll slow your visit to what one colleague called "unreal, crazy, but lots of fun, anyway"?

Cruise? Still got it. Director Bird? Definitely got it.

With "MI–Ghost Protocol" and the cheeky witfest of "Sherlock Holmes," both gob-smacking theatres for the diversion-famished end of year cineaste, "The Muppets" and suchlike (admirable but decidedly low-testosterone) cavity-creators won't be dominating the hot top ticket tramway for long.


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