“This tale of Nazis and gun battles. I don’t believe a word of it.”
That’s Ian Fleming’s superior to him as he recounts the tale of his journey into Germany to retrieve nuclear plans. The author of the James Bond books going behind enemy lines at the end of WWII on a covert intelligence operation? If it sounds far-fetched, that’s par for the course for Sky Atlantic and BBC America’s series, a biopic with an attitude towards fact as playful as its protagonist.
Episode 4 of the drama rounds everything off with a final burst of fantasy following Episode 3’s subtler dose of reality. This is a chapter full of explosions, gunshots and German accents. But Dominic Cooper carries off the dashing action hero with aplomb, while John Brownlow and Don MacPherson’s script reins things in gently for a final act that picks up on the writing riffs peppered throughout and follows through.
That’s the end note for the series, one that could have been anti-climactic after all that action if it weren’t for the sterling supporting cast. Anna Chancellor smoothes over the unsubtle hints at imagination and being an author with a wry grin, while Lesley Manville relishes her role as bile-spitting matriarch. Lara Pulver, though, is increasingly what gives Cooper’s 007 caricature depth; about to be married off to Esmond, the unavailable woman’s last moments with Ian are surprisingly engaging – one sad sequence involving fireworks is beautifully shot by Mat Whitecross, accompanied by the dulcet tones of Tom Whitecross’ jazz singer.
“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” demands Ian’s mum, after the doomed lovebirds part. “Actually, it was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life,” he retorts. Is this the emotional motivation behind Bond’s cold attitude towards woman? After four hours of polished television, you’re willing to buy it; even the odd note of obvious melodrama slips down like a cold martini.
Told with a guilt-free smile at its rapt listeners, the result is a satisfying conclusion to The Man Who Would Be Bond – a hyperbolic, indulgent tale of Nazis and gun battles that knows you secretly want to believe every word. From the Barry-esque notes in the score to a deadpan discussion about the name Harry Aitken, Fleming is a delightful watch for Bond fans; a cocktail that leaves history shaken, but the audience nicely stirred.
Fleming is available to watch online on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can stream Fleming online on NOW TV as part of an Entertainment Pass for £8.99 per month, along with Sky Atlantic, Sky One, Sky Witness and FOX UK – no contract.