Directed and cowritten by J.J. Abrams, creator of TV's Lost and Alias, the third entry in the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE feature-film expansion of the Cold War-era TV series delivers everything a fan could ask for: exotic locations, muscular artillery, death-defying stunts, and a flawlessly crafted series of action set pieces strung along a plot that makes some semblance of sense — and when it doesn't, you know Abrams is just having a bit of fun. It begins with a grabber: Impossible Mission Force agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and a terrified woman are being tortured by a swaggering sadist who wants to know the whereabouts of something called "the rabbit's foot." If Hunt doesn't come up with the right answer by the count of 10, the woman will die. Flashback to a few days earlier: Hunt, who removed himself from the frontline to train a new generation of field agents, has just gotten engaged to smart, beautiful nurse Julia (Michelle Monaghan), who thinks her fiance is a boring old traffic-pattern analyst for the Virginia Department of Transportation. But right in the middle of their engagement party, IMF bigwig Musgrave (Billy Crudup) summons Hunt to retrieve his prize pupil, Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell, winsome star of Abrams' collegiate soap opera Felicity), from the clutches of international arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) — the aforementioned swaggering sadist. The IMF has reason to believe she's being held captive in a heavily fortified warehouse on the outskirts of Berlin, so Hunt tells Julia he must attend an emergency, out-of-town traffic planners' convention and joins his team — newcomers Declan (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Zhen (Maggie Q), plus old pal Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames). The mission devolves into chaos and they attempt to recoup their reputation by snatching the elusive Davian from a swanky soiree in Vatican City, where he'll be selling that mysterious rabbit's foot to well-heeled international terrorists — the mind-boggling price tag suggests that whatever it is, it's not the kind of thing you'd want in hostile hands. That operation goes awry as well, catapulting the team to Shanghai and yet another round of high-tech derring-do. Abrams tweaks the formula without violating its muscular spirit — actually making the ever-popular full-face-mask gags almost plausible, gleefully riffing on Cruise's iconic gymnastics at the end of various wires and cables, and tossing sharp-tongued U.K. comedian Simon Pegg (SHAUN OF THE DEAD) into the mix as a high-strung computer wonk who spins worst-possible-case scenarios with a snippy mix of gloom and glee. The end result is the very definition of a summer movie: breezy, undemanding and a carefully balanced blend of the familiar and the not-quite-what-you-expected.