When you sit down in the theaters to watch Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part 1, you know what you’re getting, more or less. There will be some kind of impossible mission that requires Tom Cruise to jump off of something, crash something, or otherwise put his own life–and the lives of anyone around him–in immeasurable amounts of danger so he and his team can save the world. Oftentimes, one of those put in danger is none other than his sidekick Benji (Simon Pegg). Benji’s more than a sidekick, though; he’s the beating heart of the movies.

See, while Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is an unstoppable spy machine, Benji is more often than not portrayed as the everyman in the series. We’ve seen him gaming at his desk, and even unknowingly stumbling into one of Ethan’s catastrophes while taking in the opera. It’s certainly nothing like the largely quiet life he must have dreamed of–and thank goodness for that. Without Benji to bring emotion and realism to the team, it could be argued that we would have tired of Mission Impossible a number of films ago. After all, while a series of movies with little more than Tom Cruise putting on masks and running around the world sounds fun, it would wear thin after a while.

Instead, we have a well-rounded team, with Benji’s existence feeling the most realistic of any of the franchise’s characters. He’s a person who doesn’t hide the dream or emotion he’s feeling, choosing instead to let his IMF team know the real him, whether that’s cracking wise at the right moment to add a bit of levity or throwing himself in the line of fire, not just because the world is at stake, but because you love your friends. He’s also prone to the occasional mistake, which typically ends up being one of the more entertaining moments in any Mission Impossible film as the rest of the team tries to fix it before they’re discovered or killed. His presence helps to ground these films in a way that help to elevate them beyond action schlock.

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