It’s clear that James Bond was Ian Fleming’s idol; his books were his desired autobiography, with “you as you’d like to be”, as his wife is quick to point out to him in the new BBC America miniseries (coming to us via Sky Atlantic).
Dominic Cooper (The History Boys) stars as the creator of Bond, alongside Lara Pulver, Anna Chancellor, and Samuel West as Rear-Admiral Godfrey, the inspiration for the legendary M. Relegated to office work for the Naval Intelligence, despite his desire to be become a spy (cheesily compiling a file of how to trick the Germans), Fleming sees himself as a maverick; womanising, drinking and collecting pornography are his primary concerns.
Fleming is repeatedly drawn to seductive Ann (Pulver), who’s half-hearted resistance to his advance is reminiscent of Pussy Galore. An unintentionally comic scene finds the two in a slow motion passionate embrace as the Blitzkrieg strikes.
Despite all this, Pulver‘s animal magnetism is the main drive behind the show. Cooper, unfortunately, never quite commands the screen. Despite attempts to illustrate the disparity between the man Fleming wants to be and reality, Cooper never seems comfortable, even during his most Bond-esque scenes. But Fleming perseveres with the clichéd flirtation of any classic Bond movie, and lines such as “Don’t worry, I’m good with my hands”, which only add to the sense of discomfort.
With nods to the Bond fanbase, such as “shaken not stirred” and skiing in the Alps à la The Spy Who Loved Me, the show is not wholly without charm. The impeccable period look, intricate costumes and scenery are undeniable, and follow the rules of British period drama. Ultimately, though, Fleming seems unsure of its purpose, falling between fiction and reality, grandiosity and mediocrity.
The series seems confused as to whether it is another Bond movie or an insight into the author’s. To dream of being heroic and fearless is utterly understandable, yet Fleming fails to capture the spirit.
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