Paramount has utilized an interesting strategy for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the fourth entry in the  popular spy franchise. Recognizing that Tom Cruise might not be the box office draw he once was, the latest film is being designed as something of a standalone entry and will evidently have more of an ensemble feel.

Furthermore, there was an understanding that one of the new supporting players could potentially act as a contingency plan for the studio to carry on the Mission: Impossible films once Cruise decided to retire his Ethan Hunt character.

When Jeremy Renner signed on to the project in late August, many speculated that he was being groomed to take over for Cruise. During a recent chat with MTV, Renner all but confirmed this:

“It’s a franchise to potentially take over … I can’t predict the future and what they want, but that’s certainly the idea.”

At this point, Cruise is still expected to take part in a fifth Mission: Impossible film (should that come to pass) – but if audiences are receptive to Renner, Cruise may find himself relegated to a smaller role. Renner isn’t sure if that passing of the torch will be acknowledged or even hinted at in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol:

“I can’t really go into the details of the script, because that’s still evolving … It’s Tom’s baby. He’s the engine behind the thing. What happens after that, we’ll see.”

What he is certain of is that the stunt work in the film is second to none and that Cruise has raised the bar for everyone involved:

“I haven’t gotten to work too much in terms of acting stuff, but the stunts have been insane … Tom has been doing loads. He’s crazy, that guy. It’s unbelievable. He’s fearless. He’s great to watch. He inspires me to want to be better. I’m training in the gym and working out and fighting and doing everything I can to try and keep up. I’m doing hand-to-hand combat, Muay Thai and Kung Fu and learning how to take someone out quickly. I need to look like I know what I’m doing!”

I’m a big fan of Renner’s and remain hopeful that the level of talent this project has attracted is indicative of its potential. In addition to Cruise and Renner, franchise veterans Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg will return. The supporting cast is rounded out by Josh Holloway, Paula Patton, Vladimir Mashkov, and Michael Nyqvist.

I still like Cruise as an actor and  he’s in great shape for his age.  Actually, scratch that – he’s in great shape period. I see no reason why he couldn’t take part in a few more Mission: Impossible sequels (even if it has to be in a smaller capacity). Renner’s more than qualified to take the reins and I have no issue with him becoming the new face of the franchise.

Honestly, while I understand that the series needs a leading man, I’ve always felt these films needed a stronger emphasis on teamwork. It sounds like that might finally be the case with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Cruise and the franchise have become easy targets, but I genuinely think this entry might shape up  nicely.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is slated to hit theaters on December 16, 2011.

Source: MTV Movies Blog.