mission_impossible_ghost_protocol-normalLike a cat, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), the indestructible secret agent star of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” has nine lives. Maybe more. He packs more death defying hero activity into one afternoon than… Scaling buildings and crashing cars, he’s always on the go.

There’s the usual assortment of exotic locations, international intrigue, beautiful assassins, clocks ticking down to zero, subtitles in various languages, but despite all that, MI4 makes WAY more sense than its predecessors. Clarity of story has never been a strong suit of the MI series, but “Ghost Protocol” trims down the convoluted plots of the first three movies.

The IMF—that’s Impossible Missions Force for the uninitiated—is disavowed after Ethan Hunt and his team Jane (Paula Patton) and Benji (Simon Pegg) are accused of bombing the Kremlin. Under the rules of Ghost Protocol they are left on their own with no support and must go rogue to clear their name.

“Ghost Protocol” is by no means a comedy but there are more light moments–usually courtesy of Simon Pegg–than in all the previous movies combined. There’s even a short joke at Cruise’s expense.

The jokes are place holders for the wall-to-wall action. If nothing else Ghost Protocol will make you chew your popcorn a little faster. Spectacular set pieces, like Cruise repelling down the outside of the tallest building in the world, and a car chase in a dust storm, should satisfy any action fan.

The various subplots may not, however. Too much time is spent on Jeremy Renner’s back story, a long-winded tale of combat fatigue that reveals a connection to Hunt. The movie is best when it is running and jumping and while the story doesn’t slow the overall momentum, it feels unnecessary.

In the end “Ghost Protocol” has everything you expect from a MI movie. There’s action galore, a cool gadget for every occasion, the patented Tom Cruise Run–hands extended, determined look on face, hair blowing from the sheer velocity of his stride–and sneering bad guys