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It's been five years since the last Mission: Impossible film hit theaters, but Hollywood has decided to bring the franchise back to the big screen with Tom Cruise reprising his role as the lead Ethan Hunt. He'll be surrounded by an impressive cast, so I'd say we could be looking at the makings of an interesting return to the franchise. The film's first trailer was released this week with the opening of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and I thought I'd break it down for you and give you the skinny on what we should probably expect. Below is the trailer, and after the jump, you'll see my breakdown. Enjoy!

And now for the questions that entered my mind while watching the trailer:

1) What is Ghost Protocol?
Because it's the film's subtitle, it must play a relatively important part within the film itself. I know that there was never going to be an explanation within the actual trailer, but Tom Wilkinson's mention of it makes me a little more intrigued to find out exactly what this "Ghost Protocol" may be.

2) The trailer sets this film up to be extremely fast-paced. Will it deliver on that

For much of the trailer, we get to see a number of sequences of intense action scenes that will hopefully stay off the cutting room floor once the final product is released. Now, I know that the Mission: Impossible series is an action-oriented franchise, but in the past three films, I can't really remember anything truly stellar about the level of action that makes them stand above similar films. In a way, they're just not all that memorable. Still, there's no reason that Ghost Protocol won't change that standard. They even managed to throw in a big-time effect at the end of the trailer, like I mentioned all action film trailers do in my breakdown of Fast Five.

3) What was the reasoning behind bringing this franchise back to theaters?
I know that money was definitely a driving factor in bringing Mission: Impossible back to the big screen, especially considering that the three previous films all surpassed the $100 million mark to be considered "blockbuster" films. That being said, the most recent installment in 2006 spotted the lowest domestic gross of the franchise. Add in the fact that Tom Cruise has had a bit of a shaky personal image in the past few years, then you could start to question the reasoning for bringing this one back.

4) On that note, is Cruise still right for this role?
It'd be tough for Cruise not to come back to a franchise he dominated for ten years, and had he not been asked to return, there would have been quite an uproar from fans. That being said, I simply wonder if he's a little too seasoned to be playing Ethan Hunt yet again. And while I don't think his personal image is as scared as it was a few years ago, I'm pretty sure there's still a good number of people who would avoid this film just because he's starring in it. I just don't know whether Tom Cruise has the star power to draw a massive audience anymore. I personally think he's a great actor (he's nabbed wins in my personal "Best of" awards in 2004 and 2008), but his portrayal of Ethan Hunt was never one of my favorite of his roles. Still, it'd be strange not to see him in the film, so I guess we'll have to live with it.

5) Can the all-star cast around Cruise help give this series a fresh breath of air?
All that being said about Tom Cruise, I'd have to say that whoever was in charge of casting did a great job with this one. The aforementioned Wilkinson brings some serious acting chops to the film. Bringing back Simon Pegg is a huge plus as he's sure to bring some much-needed comic relief to the screen. The addition of the beautiful Paula Patton also brings a level of grace to the screen that I'm not sure the Mission: Impossible franchise has had to date. However, the biggest signing has to be of Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner, who in the past two years has proven himself twice over that he has the potential to be a great actor. Throwing him into the mix with a legend like Tom Cruise should play out very well, and I'm definitely excited to see Renner delve more into the action side of things.

6) Can director Brad Bird succeed in making this live-action film?
Before this film, all of Brad Bird's previous films have been of the animated nature. His debut feature film was 1999's The Iron Giant, and he followed that up with the Pixar endeavors The Incredibles and Ratatouille. He hasn't directed a movie since that 2007 film, so I'm interested to see how his creative tendencies will translate to the live-action format. The fact that he helmed The Incredibles is a little reassuring, considering that was an action-packed film despite being animated. Still, I think the jury has to remain out until the final product can hit theaters.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol will hit U.S. theaters on December 16, 2011.

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