Reportedly, the leading role in the movie Salt had Tom Cruise in mind, but he turned it down because he felt it was too close to his Mission: Impossible persona, Ethan Hunt. So rather than playing a different character so close to the international spy, it seems that Tom Cruise decided to just bring him back. Good move.
Traditionally, fourth installments are not the high point of a franchise (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Jaws the Revenge, etc.). While Mission: Impossible-- Ghost Protocol would not qualify as the high point (that honor still belongs to the first film), it thankfully escapes being the low point of the movie series. Other than a few story points from previous movies, Ghost Protocol feels less like a sequel, and more of a continuation of Ethan Hunt’s exploits, similar to the Jack Ryan character of The Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger, and Patriot Games. Like those films, Ghost Protocol stands alone with just a few details carrying over from previous installments, but not so many that seeing the other movies would be strictly necessary.
Ghost Protocol is not a character movie, but we do learn enough about the characters in general that we actually care what happens to them. Only in the last few minutes of the film is the full extent of Ethan’s character truly revealed, in a twist that bumps his hero-hood up several notches. The other main character played by Jeremy Renner is interesting enough, and seems to be the runner-up to be Ethan’s replacement should the studio decide to keep making Mission: Impossible movies. If another movie were to follow Ghost Protocol, they would do well to keep both Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg in the mix, as they both bring a fresh element to what could have very easily been an overdone action flick. Every team must have a curvy female agent (as proved by each preceding movie), because someone has to distract the enemy males, so Paula Patton features. Needlessly. On a minor sidenote, anyone wondering where Ving Rhames fits in after his faithfulness to the previous three movies, fear not; you will see him, albeit briefly.