Abrams, creator of TV show Alias, must have laughed all the way to the bank. He gets much better production values, like actually going to Shanghai, rather than showing stock footage before cutting to an LA set [Though German windfarms look curiously like California...], and needn't write a script, just take a discarded two-parter and replace "Sidney Bristow" with "Ethan Hunt". That's not so bad - we like Alias - but the structure, ideas and characters here are scarily familiar. Start with a dramatic moment, then flashback to the events before it? Check. Secret government agency, hunting those who supply weaponry to bad guys? Check. Boss you perhaps can't trust? Check. Geeky tech guy who rambles on, in his own world? Check (here, played by Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg, so we enjoyed that).
If it's not a contradiction, this is solidly fluffy: it's summer entertainment, and is instantly forgettable, but is a pretty good time, as Hawke (Cruise) scurries from one perilous situation to another. However, as in War of the Worlds, there is no genuine sense of peril; as the biggest star on the planet, you know nothing terrible will really happen to him. Due to this, the same applies to the film's most shocking moment, which my brain immediately rejected as fake. The supporting cast is solid: Hoffman is a good villain, just not around enough to make much impact. While they give Hawke a backstory, and a fiancee/wife (Monaghan), we get no real feel for them as a couple, and so emotional investment is slim, at best. Abrams handles the action well enough; he brings his horrible choppy editing with him, as well as way too much wobbly-cam, but there were enough "Ooh!" moments in there to keep us entertained. And that's all we expected, or wanted.