Give credit where it’s due – each subsequent entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise has managed to top its predecessor, in terms of upping the ante and devising new death-defying maneuvers for Tom Cruise’s agent Ethan Hunt to perform. This winter’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol looks to be no exception.

Brad Bird is making his live-action directorial debut with the fourth Mission: Impossible film – and going off the official teaser trailer just released, the movie should boast just as much thrilling action and exciting set pieces as one would expect from the director responsible for The Incredibles.

Chances are good that if you’ve seen any one (or all three) of the previous Mission movies, the new Ghost Protocol footage will hit several familiar beats. However, it looks as though Bird has done a good job of making said recognizable plot elements or action sequences feel innovative and fresh.

The plot even looks to mix things up a bit with Cruise as Hunt butting heads with Jeremy Renner’s Agent Brandt, who’s being positioned as the franchise’s new leading man. Add a customary mystery plot involving treachery within the IMF and Tom Wilkinson (whose involvement with Ghost Protocol has been kept a secret, up to now) as a new shadowy official that Hunt and Co. must contend with – and the latest Mission: Impossible film looks like a fairly promising addition to the franchise.

It should also help that Ghost Protocol features some respectable non-American thespians – including Anil Kapoor (Slumdog Millionaire), Lea Seydoux (Inglourious Basterds), and Michael Nyqvist (the Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo adaptation) – as its villains. Hopefully, they’ll be more like Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s nasty Owen Davian from Mission: Impossible 3 – and less like Dougrary Scott as the less intimidating, but more just silly, Sean Ambrose from Mission: Impossible 2.

Check out the official Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol teaser trailer (via Yahoo! Movies) below:

Certain sequences (ex. when Hunt scales the Burj Khalifa in Dubai) in Ghost Protocol were actually shot in the IMAX format; that Cruise generally performs all his stunts should only make said action bits feel all the more realistic and exciting. The A-lister is looking rather grim as an older agent Hunt (especially in comparison to Renner’s younger and cleaner agent), but that seems to be an important factor in the plot of the film. Besides that, Cruise still looks as convincing an action star as ever, regardless of whether he’s running away from exploding cars or beating up bad guys with his bare fists. That should be welcome news for fans who’ve been hoping to see the actor kickin’ butt and taking names onscreen in a better movie than last year’s Knight and Day.

Lastly, the use of Eminem’s “Won’t Back Down” in this trailer is unexpected, but works well in giving the Ghost Protocol trailer a bit of extra oomph – before the classic Mission: Impossible theme starts playing, at least. Hopefully the final product will be a clever and fun adrenaline rush as well.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is scheduled to arrive in U.S. theaters on December 16th, 2011.

Source: Yahoo! Movies