The Cynical Optimist accepts a Mission : Impossible from Brad Bird

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Academy Award-winning director Brad Bird (“Ratatouille,” “The Incredibles”) makes his live-action directorial debut with “Ghost Protocol,” the fourth installment of the Mission: Impossible series. The Kremlin has been bombed, and the blame has fallen on super-spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise).

The president initiates Ghost Protocol, and accuses Hunt and his team of inciting a global nuclear war. Now, in order to clear the Impossible Mission Force of terrorism charges, Ethan assembles a new team to track down an nuclear extremist. Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”), Paula Patton, and Simon Pegg (“Star Trek”) co-star.

“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” has everything a great action flick should: exotic locales, stupefying action sequences and a charismatic leading man who does his own stunts. Seeing Tom Cruise climb the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, is exhilarating – especially on an IMAX screen.

What’s more impressive is Brad Bird’s approach to the material. His retro-minded direction is filled with charm and class. The result is a film that feels like an adrenaline-injected “North by Northwest,” complete with a prison break scene set to Dean Martin. It’s a glitzy breath of fresh air to the series – far removed from John Woo’s exploding sunglasses and that horrible Limp Bizkit theme in “Mission: Impossible 2.”

Say what you will about Tom Cruise but the guy is a legitimate action star. Forget about any of the washed-up muscle men in “Expendables 2,” Tom Cruise is too busy climbing and swinging off a 2,716-foot-high building. That’s more than a half-mile straight up! Yeah, shoot some guns at that, Stallone. You might have guts, but Tom Cruise is straight-up crazy!

While the story is simplistic and straight-forward, the film itself is a rather intricate, exhaustive celebration of breathtaking action set pieces. Brad Bird’s film is pure spectacle, plain and simple – a roller coaster ride that should be enjoyed and not meditated on. For me, it’s the best of the series.

This review will self-destruct in 5…4…3…

Observation: Tom Cruise absolutely LOVES a hoodie/jacket combination. From “Minority Report” to “War of the Worlds” and “Knight and Day,” Tom Cruise will rock a hooded sweatshirt and a jacket no questions asked. It’s his superhero costume. When the man puts on that deadly (yet stylish) clothing combo, shit gets real – Cruise starts jumping motorcycles off ramps and sliding down zip-lines.

I mean, look at the poster for “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.” Tom Cruise is saying, “Come for the hooded sweatshirt, stay for the stunts!” It’s subliminal advertising at its finest. When I see Tom in a hoodie, I know I’m going to get my money’s worth.