Even though Tom Cruise will hand over the reigns of the Mission: Impossible franchise to Jeremy Renner this winter in M: I – Ghost Protocol, that doesn’t mean the A-lister is hanging up his action star hat completely. He’ll instead be moving on to headline the first in a potential new series based on Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, beginning with One Shot.

Paramount has all but formally secured a release date for Cruise’s debut as Reacher. In addition, the studio has pushed Ghost Protocol‘s theatrical release date back – but only by a few days.

One Shot revolves around ex-military cop Jack Reacher, a deadly fighter who now spends his time traveling the world as a loner. Think a 6’5”, 250 pound, caucasian version of Jules from Pulp Fiction (who can also snap a neck with his bare hand) and you’ve got Reacher. Needless to say, there’s already been a lot of contention among fans about whether or not the physically-smaller Cruise is up for the part – even though Child has already voiced his approval of the casting.

According to Deadline, Paramount plans to release One Shot on February 8th, 2013. The studio is hoping to replicate the box office success of another high-profile project that hit theaters around that same time last year, Shutter Island. Plus, the new Cruise vehicle will face less competition than it would have, say, during the Summer 2013 season.

If all goes according to plan, the role of Reacher will do for Cruise what the Jack Ryan character did for Harrison Ford – namely, allow the aging blockbuster actor to still play the action hero, while also accounting for his getting on in the years. Whether lightning will strike twice is the question.

Deadline is also reporting that Paramount is “bullish” about the box office prospects of Ghost Protocol, which accounts for why the studio is now releasing the spy sequel on December 21st instead of the 16th. That way, it won’t have to open directly against Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, but will instead face-off with David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

The Ghost Protocol trailer made the film look like a healthy dose of high-octane fun, and this move on the studio’s part actually bodes well for the quality of the Brad Bird-helmed picture. In short: It’s good news for everyone who’s looking forward to Cruise’s next turn as super agent Ethan Hunt.

Not everybody is keen on the idea of Cruise continuing to find work as a butt-kickin’ agent or man-on-the-run (see: his upcoming role in Joseph Kosinski’s sci-fi thriller Oblivion), but there’s no denying that he’s still up for the task. So long as the actor can still convincingly kick, punch, jump, run, and pull off a variety of deft-defying stunts – while doing so in movies better than last year’s Knight and Day – we see no reason he should call it quits just yet.

We’ll keep you posted on the status of both Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and One Shot in the future.

Source: Deadline