Director: Brad Bird
Stars: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Tom Wilkinson, Josh Holloway, Lea Seydoux, Michael Nyqvist, Anil Kapoor
Release Date: December 21
Why we’re excited: How’s this for disappointment: 2006’s Mission: Impossible III earned the mega-budgeted spy franchise’s lowest domestic gross, with $134 million. What an epic fail…. OK, so most Hollywood producers would kill to have their movies accumulate that sum. Sure, it pales in comparison to Mission: Impossible II’s $215 million intake, but the Tom Cruise-led series’ last entry still cracked the three-digit mark, and that wasn’t long after Cruise’s freak-out on Oprah’s couch.

Now that the superstar’s public image is practically back to normal, he’s still looking for his next worldwide smash, following up a couple of so-so performers (Valkyrie and Knight & Day). So, naturally, Cruise jumped right back into Ethan Hunt mode for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, bringing The Incredibles director Brad Bird along for the latter’s first live-action job. Plot-wise, Ghost Protocol falls right in line with past M:I adventures; this time, Hunt and his tactical squad hunt down criminal masterminds who’ve bombed the Kremlin. Cruise also recruited two potential franchise mainstays, should Ghost Protocol decimate the box office: Jeremy Renner, playing a well-connected analyst, and Paula Patton, playing, well, the film’s much-welcome eye candy.

At their best, Cruise’s Mission: Impossible flicks deliver the best examples of high-stakes, blockbuster productions, and Ghost Protocol’s breathless trailer hints at a sequel that should tap into that exceptionality.