It's interesting to watch this at the end of the year, and see how, in some ways, it preshadowed the "back to the future" approach taken by Skyfall: in some ways, going back to its origins, while in others, rushing forwards with the accelerator pushed to the metal. As in the very first film, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is framed for a crime he didn't commit - here, the bombing of the Kremlin - and has to fight from out of the shadows to clear his name. However, this ramps up the technological aspects, with a near-blizzard of gadgetry, supported by an enhanced role for Pegg, as IMF's "Q", Benji Dunn. Also part of the underground team are an IMF agent (Renner) who feels responsible for the death of Hunt's wife and (likely so Hunt wouldn't look gay), Jane Carter (Patton), who zip around the globe, from Moscow to Dubai to Mumbai, in search of a renegade villain who wants to trigger nuclear war because... Er, let's just leave it at that, shall we?
It's really the kind of film that's much more enjoyable at the time, rather than when you look back and realize how little depth is given to most of the characters. Bird, better known as one of Pixar's guys, nakes the shift from anination to live-action with aplomb, and gives the action sequences a fresh look and a lot of energy, most notably an extended sequence in the world's tallest building, which combines climbing, running, fighting, the aforementioned technology and a sandstorm to impressively-kinetic effect. Indeed, it's so good that the actual climax, when it arrives, is somewhat underwhelming by comparison. Pegg is, as ever, a joy to watch - it's clear producer J.J.Abrames thinks so, having used him both in this series and a not-dissimilar role in Star Trek. I'd have been happy to forego Cruise entirely, who is little more than a clothes-horse, on which cool action and gadgets can be hung. Still, the results are undeniably entertaining, though without any real emotional heart to lift it up into the true top tier for the genre.