(director: Brad Bird; screenwriters: Josh Appelbaum/André Nemec/based on the television series created by Bruce Geller; cinematographer: Robert Elswit; editor: Paul Hirsch; music: Michael Giacchino/theme composed by Lalo Schifrin; cast: Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt), Jeremy Renner (Brandt), Simon Pegg (Benji), Paula Patton (Jane), Michael Nyqvist (Hendricks), Vladimir Mashkov (Sidorov), Josh Holloway (Hanaway), Anil Kapoor (Brij Nath), Léa Seydoux (Sabine Moreau), Tom Wilkinson (I.M.F. Secretary), Miraj Grbic(Bogdan); Runtime: 132; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Tom Cruise/J. J. Abrams/Bryan Burk; Paramount Pictures; 2011)

“Could be the poster boy for disposable films.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s the kind of pic whereby the fine actor Tom Wilkinson, playing the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) Secretary boss, gets killed off in an early scene and he becomes the lucky one to get out of this crappy movie so early on. Unimaginatively and formulaic-ally directed by Brad Bird (“The Iron Giant”/”Ratatouille“/”The Incredibles“), in his live-action directing debut, and cartoonishly written by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, the moneymaking fourth installment of the franchise, based on the television series created by Bruce Geller, could be the poster boy for disposable films. At its best, the lightweight second-rate 007-like thriller is diverting nonsense, filled with gadgets and plenty of bang-bang action. It’s about as enriching as cotton candy. Though the film has a ridiculous narrative (like all the other IMF films), the characters are all one-dimensional, the acting is as irksome as a bad dream and the dialogue couldn’t be more trite, the film could be entertaining if you allow yourself to wink and nod at action hero star Tom Cruise for his narcissistic performance as the macho he-man. At one moment in the pic Cruise, at his athletic best, responds to his helper’s comment that his rope is too short, as he escapes Spider-Man style by climbing down the glass outside of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, with the sharp retort of “No Shit.” Fans of these hokum action stories, special effects films and big-budget pics might enjoy the contrived but sizzling old-fashioned choreographed action scenes, the fast pace that won’t allow even a sec for thinking, that the IMAX imagery is technically well-done and that it offers an easy on the eyes visually pleasing travel tour that takes us from Budapest to Moscow to Dubai, and finally to Mumbai.

IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is subsiding in a depressing Moscow jail, for some reason that seems unimportant to the filmmaker to fully reveal the circumstances in a believable manner, when he’s dramatically busted out by his IMF team colleagues: the nerdy Brit techie specialist Benji (Simon Pegg) and the sultry Jane Carter (Paula Patton), the girlfriend of a slain agent (Josh Holloway) assassinated in Budapest when on a mission trying to steal a file stolen from the Kremlin that will prevent a nuclear attack. When Ethan’s IMF team is spotted in the inner sanctum of the Kremlin imitating Soviet military officers and using diversionary methods to make a penetration to secret vaults, they are blamed by the Russian agents for a bomb that explodes there and are labelled terrorists, and are hunted down by the agents as they become rogue operatives. The villain, who stole a nuclear launch code device during the bomb diversion, is the one-dimensional Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), a spurned mad scientist, who was given no personality and no apparent reason for wanting to start a global nuclear war except some crap about destroying the world so it can begin to evolve again. Hendricks is the reason for Ethan’s Kremlin visit, as the team tries to steal his file.

Before Ethan’s boss, the IMF secretary, is slain he appoints his analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to join Ethan’s team, as the U. S. government denies they have anything to do with the IMF team because of the Moscow incident. This leads them to go rogue because of the ghost protocol decision by their government. Also, it’s soon revealed the martial arts expert Brandt was a former field agent, but is keeping a dark secret about his past. To get the secret out is about as tense an operation as it is for a patron in a Chinese restaurant trying to decide whether to get an egg drop or a won ton soup.

The film’s droll humor emerges around the feats of brawn over the reliance on high-tech and its frequent breakdowns, with the pulsating almost non-stop action sequences used to keep us entertained in a high voltage style and the dazzling set pieces to keep us visually pleasured. The almost 50-year-old Cruise does most of his own dangerous stunts, leaving us impressed with the aging star’s fit bod and his athletic prowess (but not with his acting skills). Unfortunately this muscle-bound venture is not my kind of film–far too vacuous, but it provides the action scenes as advertized and exploits the kind of splashy entertainment that Hollywood has mastered better than anyone else.