The real mission is to renew a stale franchise, and here Ghost Protocol largely succeeds, on the strength of good action scenes - including an IMAX-enhanced Dubai skyscraper dangle by Cruise - and the good humour of a well-chosen cast.
Just as newly gritty heroes seem to have run their course (fingers crossed), Cruise and Bird are doing their damnedest to maintain the escapist thrills that we as audiences will always choose to accept.
It's not the generic plot that's so memorable, even though its convolutions are clever enough, or the cast of mostly interesting characters, but the surreal swirl of form and color that frequently fills the enormous screen.
Whatever the movie's shortcomings, director Bird more than compensates with a bullet train of action and an arsenal of cool gadgets. Maybe making cartoons has expanded his conception of what's possible in a live film.
Bird relishes the chance to play with real people - the central suspense sequence, in which Hunt scales Dubai's Burj Khalifa one-handed, is dizzyingly effective, particularly in IMAX - and the pace rarely slows.