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Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol 

Falling off a skyscraper has never looked so fun in this frothy actioner.

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The fourth iteration of the action franchise, directed this time by Brad Bird, bounces around the globe: from Prague to a Moscow prison, then stopping by the Kremlin before heading to Dubai and Mumbai, and finally grabbing a much-deserved beer in Seattle. The plot is some nonsense about IMF super-agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) being suspected of blowing up the Kremlin, necessitating Hunt going off the grid and pursuing the real villain before he ... um ... blows up the whole world. Or something like that. It's just an excuse to stage whiz-bang action sequences, which include the two show-stoppers: scaling the world's tallest building, and a car chase in an automated parking garage. (There's also a smaller-scale but still nifty scene with a fake wall.) 

Cruise, who at 49 looks very fit, is wholly believable as the utterly unbelievable Hunt. Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg provide support as other IMF agents. Paula Patton's also on the team, but like most women shoe-horned into action films, her role is chiefly to wear a tight dress, seduce a playboy and get in a skirt-hiking brawl with another woman. Sadly, the bad guy (Michael Nyqvist, of the Swedish Girl With Dragon Tattoo) gets scrimped on, remaining simply a man to be chased rather than a fully realized threat. 

Much of Ghost verges on action comedy, with plenty of one-liners from Pegg and a pervasive light air. (Falling off a skyscraper has never looked so amusing!) There's not much cat-and-mouse play, nor any real tension. It's high-gloss, big-budget junk, and if your holiday plans call for some fast-paced, silly-serious eye candy, you could accept this mission. Leave your brain at home, doing the dishes.

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