Perhaps unsurprisingly, sequel talk is already underway. Moviehole reports that Paramount and Skydance are eager to get a fifth 'Mission' going, with both parties apparently "extremely happy" with how the movie is performing. “Skydance definitely wants to get going quickly on [Mission] 5. And a 'Top Gun' [sequel]” a source tells the site. They lynchpin in all this? David Ellison.
The Skydance honcho not only backed 'Ghost Protocol' but is also behind the much talked about "Top Gun 2" which got "X-Men: First Class" writers Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz on board to write this fall (perhaps to get the pieces in place should 'Ghost Protocol' turn into the hit they were hoping for). Of course, no one is official yet -- star Tom Cruise, or expected director Tony Scott -- but the chatter around the film suggests it has been a priority. Moreover, the success of 'Ghost Protocol' also confirms Cruise as a big star draw and that he may have left his couch-jumping years in the wild behind him.
But either project is a long way off at best. Cruise will be spending 2012 on two big projects, Joseph Kosinski's "Oblivion" in the first half and the second half dedicated to Doug Liman's "All You Need Is Kill." Should a fifth 'Mission' get going after that, it still leaves "Top Gun 2" in the far distant future. Still the talk isn't surprising and we'd guess if the box office continues to be strong for 'Ghost Protocol' these sequels will continue to be knocked around for a while. It also pretty much confirms that Ethan Hunt will continue to lead the franchise, with no need to hand off the reins to another agent (yet).
As for the question of director Brad Bird returning...we doubt it. One of the features of the 'Mission' franchise is that it has allowed Cruise to line up a new auteur with each effort to change up the game, and we presume they will continue to do that (and undoubtedly Bird has his own projects he'd like to get to as well). But for movie audiences, should they choose to accept it, 'Mission: Impossible' isn't going away anytime soon.