Tom Cruise's quaternary effort as IMF super secret agent Ethan Hunt can be likened to eating a giant bag of jelly beans. You had fun while it lasted, found a few surprises, but are pretty sure you'll never eat a jelly bean again afterwards. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is a nonsensical, dazzling jumble of wild action scenes and formulaic characters. You have the Russian baddie (Michael Nyqvist), the babe agent (Paula Patton), the nerdy tech guy that can fix anything (Simon Pegg), the misunderstood new guy (Jeremy Renner), and requisite world domination / nuclear war plot. Stunning in IMAX, it's good eye candy at best, but really puts the franchise at a crossroads.

Framed for a massive explosion at the Kremlin; Hunt and his team are on a save the world mission to stop a madman and prevent war. This time, the IMF has been disavowed by the President, invoking the titular Ghost Protocol. The plot, standard as it may be, attempts to loop in a few curves that hearken back to the events of the third film and series characters missing here. I won't ruin it for you, but the twists are somewhat tepid. What's sort of funny is how they supposedly have no more support, are on their own, but seemingly can find every amazing gadget for every unthinkable scenario. Most notable is a vertigo inducing scene atop the world's tallest building in Dubai. Throw in an impending sandstorm coupled with a few glitches in Ethan's stick-to-anything gloves and you have the money shot seen in the trailers.

MI4 is the first live action feature from animation auteur Brad Bird. Known for his work with Pixar (The Incredibles), Bird ably directs a frenetic pace and cinematic action flick. He's proven he's capable of deeper more sentimental work, but this is not what Paramount wanted here. I feel this is the crossroads that this franchise has currently hit. Try as they may to imitate Bond, the Ethan Hunt character is terribly generic. He has nothing interesting or captivating about him. This is pretty much the exact guy you've seen in the other films. I believe this is why Jeremy Renner has been introduced. It might be that future IMF adventures are centered on his character. But that would also seem odd because Renner is the new Jason Bourne, taking over that role from Mat Damon. Maybe Jason Bourne can be the new IMF badass?

Product placement is front and center here. I love how every car they use just happens to be a BMW. It looks like they're taking another cue from Bond and becoming a giant advertising campaign. This is all tongue in cheek as most fans will get what they wanted out of this film. Then there are those racing to the IMAX screenings to see the first six minutes of The Dark Knight Rises, which plays before the film. A genius marketing ploy, but could backfire if audiences are more taken by that scene than the film they paid to see.

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol is out December 7, 2011.

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