Star Tom Cruise may be pushing 50 and the franchise 15, but critics are finding a lot to like in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, which opens in IMAX and select theatres Friday and goes wide the following week. In the fourth M:I flick, Cruise resumes his role as renegade spy Ethan Hunt while vaunted Pixar writer-director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) ably takes the helm of his first live-action film. One commentator calls it "the best action movie of the year." Really?

Yes! This is it, "at long last, the year's best action flick," says Andrew O'Hehir at Salon. Who knew "an aging star often viewed as a weirdo" and an animation director had it in them? Bird's stylish, energetic direction makes you wonder "why the hell" he hasn't made more movies by age 54, while Cruise embues a messy, long-haired Ethan Hunt with an easy charisma. The film "has not just one or two but four or five of the most coherent and exciting action sequences in recent history," including a "beautifully choreographed" finale in a parking garage in Mumbai. "This is pure escapist cinema at its best, without morality or apology or guilt."
"Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol: At long last, the year’s best action flick"

It's impressive, but frustratingly flawed: "From a purely technical standpoint, Ghost Protocol ranks toward the top of the list of the year's best studio-made blockbusters," says Ethan Alter at Television Without Pity. Still, I expected more from Bird, given that The Incredibles is "one of the finest superhero movies ever." Not enough of his unique style comes across here. Other problems: A thin plot and a forgettable supporting cast — from Paula Patton's "wooden" turn as the "designated hot girl" to Simon Pegg's half-hearted attempt at comic relief. Still, compared to the "obnoxious, sloppily-made" Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, also out this week, Ghost Protocol is "the second coming of Star Wars."
"Battle of the blockbusters: Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"

This franchise is tired: "The seams are showing badly in this fourth Mission: Impossible movie," says Marshall Fine at Hollywood & Fine. It's a jumble of action sequences held together by that "familiar excuse for a plot: the brilliant maniac who has to be stopped before he triggers a world-wide conflagration." Though the script tries hard to be funny, it's corny rather than truly amusing. At their best, the Mission Impossible films were about the hero outsmarting the villain, not "outrunning or outgunning him." Kids might embrace this film, but for anyone craving intelligence and sublety, there's too much sensation here and too little savvy.
"Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: Stop talking"