Fifteen years and four feature films into the "Mission: Impossible" series, there is nary a sign of lethargy showing through. Spaced out enough so that they've never felt like overkill, the films have also benefitted from a change in director with each new entry. As the behind-the-scenes talent has constantly shifted, so, too, has the creative and stylistic approach. 1996's "Mission: Impossible," directed by Brian De Palma, was crafted as a labyrinthine spy thriller. 2000's "Mission: Impossible 2," from John Woo, favored bombastic action with Eastern influences and James Bond flair. 2006's "Mission: Impossible III," which saw J.J. Abrams at the helm, went with a more realistic, gritty, down-and-dirty approach. For "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol," our latest—and quite possibly best—installment, Pixar filmmaker Brad Bird (2004's "The Incredibles" and 2007's "Ratatouille") tackles his very first live-action feature and, without so much as appearing to break a sweat, ably puts to shame most veteran directors who have made a living in the action genre (that includes you, Michael Bay). A sort of combo platter of all the previous styles put together, the picture is a fine example of efficient storytelling and economical character-centric moments that add to, but never get in the way of, its bread and butter: some of the more arm-clenchingly thrilling action set-pieces to grace the silver screen this year.
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