Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is entertaining enough, with its globe trotting adventures, high-stakes tactical espionage, life-or-death extraction methods, white-knuckle infiltration and creative interrogation channels; but for all its nonstop action, it’s indiscernible from every other Mission: Impossible movie or contemporary James Bond flick.

The same obligatory catfights, amplified sound effects, hand-to-hand combat sequences, car chases, and literal suspensions from various vertiginous buildings make their way into this stunt-stuffed visual extravaganza. The light-hearted mindlessness of it all is a pleasant break from darker competition this holiday season, but there is still absolutely nothing new about Ethan’s latest assignment, despite being in the capable hands of director Brad Bird (one might have guessed at a live-action version of The Incredibles, but it’s much less imaginative).

Journeying from Budapest rooftops to a Moscow prison to the patriotic Kremlin to divine Dubai to a palace in Mumbai, Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) of the IMF (Impossible Missions Force), along with agents Jane Carter (the pleasantly badass Paula Patton) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg, contributing just the right amount of comic relief), must thwart the schemes of an ex-Swedish Special Forces soldier and nuclear extremist, code-named Cobalt (Michael Nyqvist). Cobalt’s plan is to obtain stolen, classified missile launch codes to use in a strike against the United States, which should initiate nuclear war. After Hunt and his crew are framed for the spontaneous bombing of the Kremlin, the IMF Secretary (Tom Wilkinson) delivers some unfortunate news: the IMF is disbanded and disavowed, and it’s up to the remaining three active agents, along with chief analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner), to apprehend Cobalt and stop his chaotic intentions.

Left to right: Paula Patton plays Jane and Léa Seydoux plays Sabine Moreau in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL, from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

The greatest mistake is the villain. It’s not surprising that Michael Nyqvist would be cast in a big-budget Hollywood picture (a Tom Cruise production), especially with his The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo co-star Noomi Rapace ending up in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. It seems to be a trend with successful foreign actors (see the filmography of Christoph Waltz) to be transplanted into the Hollywood system, as if their award-worthy past performances generate enough bankability to warrant inserting them into more and more films – even if they don’t specifically fit upcoming roles. Nyqvist’s forgettable baddie has nothing unique or memorable about him – no scars, metal appendages, accessories, idiosyncrasies, or weaponry to allow him to stand out from the crowd of generic antagonists. He isn’t even given a nifty henchman, save for a bit part by Lea Seydoux as an assassin who is much too young and blonde to be taken seriously. The real main villain is essentially just a nuclear missile.

With or without a memorable madman behind the nefarious plot, the stunts are still quite thrilling and the hi-tech gadgetry undeniably amusing. The stunt choreography once again includes dangling from towering structures, clinging to the outsides of immense buildings, or hanging by a thread, inches from some sharp blade. The timing is what makes these moments extraordinarily suspenseful – while an inescapable humor lines each scene with complimentary glee. The technological apparatuses that are in apparent never-ending supply (who funds these people?) also provide a great deal of wit and intensity, most being utilized for a single activity and then quickly abandoned in a hasty getaway. Anything is conceivable with these outlandish inventions, making their impossible missions considerably more achievable. It is nice, however, to see some of their contraptions occasionally fail. But it’s generally the prolonged fight scenes, car demolitions and long-distance jumping that stretch the boundaries of believability. Contesting physics, wind resistance and gravity during far-fetched feats always appears completely absurd.

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