TOKYO, Dec 1 - Tom Cruise kicked off the rollout of the fourth installment of his "Mission Impossible" franchise with a limited fan screening in Japan on Thursday ahead of its official world premiere next week.
Cruise, 49, returns as super-agent Ethan Hunt saving the world yet again in "Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol," packed with stunts and action scenes, some featuring the world's tallest building -- Dubai's Burj Khalifa.
In the latest in the series of blockbusters that has grossed nearly $1.5 billion worldwide, Impossible Mission Force (IMF) operative Hunt and fellow agents are blamed for a terrorist bombing of the Kremlin and are forced to run.
The agency is dissolved and the group -- without any resources or backup -- must find a way to clear the agency's name, prevent another attack and avert a nuclear war.
Major parts of the film were shot in Dubai, where it will officially open on December 7, while the action also takes Hunt to Moscow, Budapest and Mumbai.
Paramount Pictures, a subsidiary of Viacom Inc., said Cruise chose to start the film's tour in Tokyo ahead of the Dubai splash as a gesture to his Japanese fans and the nation that suffered so much from the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear crisis.
"I know this country has been through lots this year," he said after attending a red carpet event where some 1,500 noisy fans braved the cold to see him.
"But I also know the strength and courage of this country and I know you will get through it. And I want you to know how much we love you and the world is thinking of you, and we are here."
Misao Otsu, a 48-year-old who runs a company trading in cosmetic products, praised Cruise for his work ethic.
"I always go to see these (Mission Impossible) movies on opening day," she said. "I want the series to continue. What Tom does is beyond what a human being can do."
The film will be released in Japan on December 16 and in the United States on December 21 with theatrical releases around the world staggered over several weeks.
Two-time Academy Award winner Brad Bird directed the film and the cast includes Jeremy Renner, nominated for an Oscar for his role in the 2008 war film "The Hurt Locker."
Bird won the Oscars for animated films "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille."
Cruise is producing the film with J.J. Abrams who last teamed up with the actor in 2006 for "Mission Impossible III."
Writing by Kaori Kaneko and Tomasz Janowski; Editing by Mike Collett-White