Of all the film franchises that have struggled to gain solid reputations, the Mission: Impossible films are a very hit and miss bag. The first film, people complained that the plot was too complex, the second was too pretentious and the third was just plain nuts. So the risk was, will the fourth film manage to be any good. Well i can honestly say that this is, without a doubt, the best of the series. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the others but they are almost instantly forgettable. This one, however, will stay for a long while.

Ethan Hunt and his IMF (not that IMF!) team are sent to Moscow to steal vital information from the Kremlin. Once there, they find that they have been double-crossed and the impressive historical building is blown up. Left accused by the Russian government, the team become rouge agents out to prove their innocence while at the same time trying to track down the actual terrorist, a Russian extremist who has stolen nuclear launch codes intent on starting World War III.

Tom Cruise, who has stood by his series as the leader of the team, is still throwing himself around like he was a teenager, even though the retirement years are coming up fast. His creation of Hunt is an interesting mix of self parody and mini-sized action man. Surrounding himself with a much smaller cast, including Jeremy Renner as an analysis with a few hidden secrets, is obviously preparing himself for the action genre as he graces our screens later this year as Hawkeye in the highly anticipated The Avengers. The stunning Paula Patton is the token action girl who is as vicious as she is beautiful, although one thing did bother me…if you were working with someone like her, wouldn’t there be one off-handed remakr or a lingering stare? Or are the IMF boys not incline for the ladies?

The scene stealer of the pack, however, is Mr Simon Pegg, returning in a larger role as computer nerd Benji. He delivers each line with a deadpan humour that breaks the tension nicely and in the right place too. He is the comic relief in a film that is breath-taking fast moving and he fills the role perfectly.

If there is one real star in this, it has to be the incredible set pieces. Director Brad Bird, whose previous outings include The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, brings his knowledge of cartoons to real life and throws you right into the action from the very first frame and doesn’t let you go till the end. The long dialogue scenes that you expect to find in action films are kept to a minimum as we are transported from one country to another with a bigger explosive sequence to the next. The high-point (literally) is the amazing part when Hunt has to climb out of the tallest building in Dubai, the Burj Khalifa, and enter a room from the outside. Watching the film with a room full of people literally gasping is enough to tell me that a good job is being done and considering Cruise performed most of the stunt work himself, makes the whole thing even more tense. Not since Die Hard has the old nails dug into the arm-rests so deeply.

With a succession of Award-wannabe movies hitting our scenes over the next month, it’s good to know that 2011 (which hasn’t been a classic year for film) will end with an almighty bang. And if you are looking for a real, exciting, pulse-pounding extravaganza then place your Christmas money for a seat to the best best roller coaster ride of the season, without the sickly feeling afterwards. Well done Cruise and co for putting back faith in a well-oiled franchise.