The cheek of that Tom Cruise - rocking up to Irish cinemas at Christmas as a character from an organisation called The IMF! After the year we've had! Thankfully, the world's most buff 49-year-old brings a lot more popcorn-eating cheer with the Impossible Missions Force than Christine, Ajai and the gang, and if you're a fan of action movies who succumbs to post-December 25 domestic stir craziness, Ghost Protocol offers some good reasons for staging a breakout.

The plot finds secret agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and the rest of his team – techie whizz Benji Dunn (Pegg), ass-kicker Jane Carter (Patton) and along-for-the-ride analyst William Brandt (Renner) trying to stop an off the reservation Soviet strategist, Kurt Hendricks (Nyqvist), from using nuclear launch codes because he wants to see what will happen human evolution(!). While not the owner of a white cat, Hendricks is a genius and Hunt's job is made all the more difficult because he's been fitted up for blowing up the Kremlin - the very one - and his team's foundations are a little, well, shaky. Benji is wet around the ears; Carter is out for revenge following the murder of her spy boyfriend (Lost star Holloway in a cool cameo) on a mission in Budapest and Brandt is hiding something. Where's Luther (Ving Rhames) from previous missions when you really need him?!

From an opening video game-style battle royal in a Moscow prison to the final showdown in a fully automated car park in Mumbai (think sushi conveyor belt on multiple levels, with Bmers and more), The Incredibles director Bird shows himself to be a man who can put together a really classy set-piece and make you hold your breath. Ghost Protocol bounces from country to country and gadget to gadget and proves that while the years are rolling on, Cruise still has a lot to offer as a tough guy - witness his stuntman-free antics on the side of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, if you've any doubts.

The letdown is that in a story that's all about team-building and surrogate families, Ghost Protocol fails to make the most of the talents at its disposal. There was the potential for a lot more cool comedy between Cruise and master of timing Pegg; the relationship between the leading man's character Hunt and Renner's Brandt was deserving of extra scenes and Patton's Carter should've been allowed to really get the chemistry going with one of them - or both. As for the villain, it's a waste to cast an actor of the calibre of Nyqvist (Blomkvist in the Swedish Dragon Tattoo movies) and then hardly give him anything to do.

The last Mission: Impossible movie in 2007 had a lower US box office take than either of its predecessors ($134m compared to the original's $180m and part two's $215m) and from the absence of a '4' in the title to the new team members (Renner could definitely become the series' leading man, but he's got his own 2012 blockbusters to come), Ghost Protocol feels like an attempt to give the franchise a new lease of life. If the box office gods (you!) smile and a fifth movie gets the green light, Cruise and the other producers should also buck tradition by allowing Bird to sit in the director's chair again. With a stronger script, he could do something extra special.

No Bourne, but far more enjoyable than the last Bond.

Harry Guerin